What's It Like?
We have made unspeakable mean indescribable:
it really means nasty.
You don’t mean nasty. You mean today
a fresh ejected 50. cal casing,
hot brass thick round as a lipstick shuttle,
coerced new blisters from your neck, and earlier
leaves stirred in wind you couldn’t feel
as you watched a camel through a scope
bend down dying. You mean the chirps,
whistles, and wind drawn trilling
from the roof top vents of the abandoned
Red Cross warehouse—in its empty compound
next to yours—were indistinguishable
from song thrush nesting in the concertina.
At the end of OEF thirteen, we visited Qala-i-Jangi.
That prison-fortress near Mazar-i-Sharif.
There was only one guard. He was happy
to lead us through the afternoon hay grass
still sifting bomb rubble. We took pictures
with him next to the memorial for the only casualty
whose name we knew. I thought there were others:
shots of the guard at the entrance to the bunker
where the rioting prisoners were drowned;
with the purple loosestrife gathered
trembling against the walls; the walls
crumbling like aqueducts; the basement cells
cool and dark and quiet. I only found a few
of us—soldiers in civilian clothes, at the Blue Mosque,
pistols tucked behind our backs; of the tribal rugs
we bought afterwards in the bazaar.