War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Patrol (from May Day)

Another installment of May Day, a fictional series of letters from a young woman to her lover who is serving as a Warrant Officer in Afghanistan. For a backgrounder on the project, click on the May Day icon at the right, or listen to the audio broadcast, Writing May Day


midday heat. open prairie sun. 42 Celsius. I step into it. gaters zipped. a pack. water. a hat. cheese. something sweet. a bag of cherries. a GPS. infra-red thermometer for ground. a Kestrel for wind. a radio. crackle crackle. the net of disembodiment. a whole lot of kit. scientific. (me!) the dancer with the bad knee. walking into the heart of a continent. searching searching for something tiny. endangered. lizard. a lizard that shoots blood. puffs big. when there is danger. and there is danger. and there is ancient. curved by glacier. curved by ice age. curved by wind and time. curved by a billion footsteps. beauty.

I’ve volunteered. citizen scientist. citizen. me. I need to walk. you. walk all of this. war. me. grief. pain. guilt. the faltering of it. all. out of me. one step. one left. one right at a time.

I take my map. my GPS. find that where I’m going there’s no short cut. can’t ford the river. can’t go around the coulee. have to climb down, cross it, then up again. 3 kms as the crow flies. becomes 5, maybe 6, maybe 7 kms. all the way my eyes close to the ground. my stick tick ticking the long grass. waiting for the hiss, rattlesnake. natures IED.

shhhhhhhhhhh shhhhhhhhh shhhhhhhhhh. I jump. this is it. real danger. real life. real death. shhhhhhhhh. shhhhhhhhh. shhhhhhh. I step back. she has no need to strike. she seems to say, “woman take the other way”. and for an instant I think maybe she is a grandmother. (one thinks strange things in mid-summer in mid-prairie heat). I follow the deer trail. trampled. clear.

an hour in I find my waypoint. dead centre. begin to search. under every silvery sage, every artemetius 300 meters from ground zero. I grid. tap ground. slowly, slowly always looking down. think to myself. this must be like patrol. each step maybe deadly. careful. full of dread. suspense. this is it. this is it. this is what it must be. to tread carefully.

the heat boils my hat. my head. I shouldn’t be out at midday. still I look and look. for something that may or may not be there. tiny. lizard. the last hope for a continent.

over the hill two bison. wild. young. male. they gaze black. steel their shiny beads at me for a second then nod back into the graze. they could care less. I’m too small. too dull in my desert gear. they switch their tails at flies.

you lied. when you said you were done. only home a few months and the restless legs set in. you missed your boys you said. you wanted revenge. you missed the heat. you missed the sound of metal. you needed the adrenaline. you missed the sense of get up. get going. let the shitshow begin.

while truth is cold. I could never be enough. just oasis. when home, the army, all of it wanted too much. and for you, they always wanted to much. even I. who took you even for a few hours, a few days. on leave.

I begged you to quit. I begged you to stay. I begged you to be something new. to tell me what’s bugging you. but it just gave you the excuse. to put in a memo. go for tour number three. I’m out of here. I’m out of here. there’s no f’ing way I’m teaching officers to baby step at Pet, Gagetown, Shilo

now you’re there. last go before we withdraw. and I’m here on the prairie. I may never dance again. and each of us on our own patrol. the danger path. the danger tree. beckons. beckons you. beckons me.

and I step carefully. listen for the rattle. the rattle of the snake. in the hot prairie grass.

calling me.


About This Page

The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Patrol (from May Day). It was posted here on July 24, 2010.


Complete diary archive