War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Night Before the First Big Op. (2nd draft)

We band of brothers;/For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/Shall be my brother;
William Shakespeare, Henry V

only crackle, radio net, the CP pulling another all-nighter,
otherwise silence. across a village, no call to any prayers
and the courtyard of the abandoned school house, silent
and the mountains, rippled like catfish fins, silent,
the bayonets silvered like an Afghan moon;
generators seeped no sound but diesel outside the weathermen’s
pimped up LAV. the one parked on the other side of the compound,
the LAV with the gucci mast (“don’t take any pics,” they drank
coffee silently);

that night the camp dogs didn’t feel like barking,
all the adders and cobras had gone to ground anyway.
and the designated pup was cradled in a lonely soldier’s arm,
the soldier stroking its floppy ears, its fresh-washed fur (ever see soldiers fight over who gets to bathe the dog?) in the pixels of Dawn’s laptop lidded open
Facebook lit the front in extra soft light, a weird campfire with no songs;
and the men looked on. or not.

the maintainer who always smiled at me had nothing left
but checklists in the pockets of his deserts, his fingernails, immaculate.
“let’s see, how many breaths in a minute, an hour, okay, until I’m dead.”
I passed him on the way to the rocket with my sideman Pat.
the boy’s pistol ready for anything. (I wasn’t allowed to take a piss alone it seemed.)

pass or fail all I’d witnessed at Shilo, Wainwright, Suffield—house-to-house, live-fire, Karl G, night rounds, battle formation, stab runs—all were big muscle memory
out there at the pointy end of the pointy end; where wire was thinner than thin,
only the idea of a hescoe, mortared rooftops a rifle coy, HQ, the weathermen poring over the digital sky, a few guns, lay between them and us, a sudden death
or worse;

and listen, can you hear?
the cock really does crow when the Afghan sun slides into the west;

I watched 200 brothers (did you know women could be brothers?) raise dust, roll in. shut down card games, practical jokes. they swallowed the spuds I slapped on their paper plates, the thin rind of the night before war bitter on their teeth. they unrolled maps, listened to the CO’s St. Crispin speech, lay down to try to sleep;

from the OP I watched medics count bandages, bags of plasma, run through routines. desert diver just cleaned and cleaned his gear and cleaned.

then it was done. minus hour.
only little sound; water from the well being pumped,
splashing faces, hands, soldiers getting clean
before they couldn’t sleep. they set watches
and the CP rattled on and on
almost silently.


About This Page

The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Night Before the First Big Op. (2nd draft). It was posted here on June 14, 2010.

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