War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

pattern of life (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

48 hrs you wait, tick Afghan moon sun saucers; hills dry as good gunpowder, the dust of old walk, old wander, bellied grass. chew lipped, spit. mucus scratch nose, throat, eyes. your binos glued. sniper slithers next to you. no talk. just signal. just silent radio chatter.

below, old men, children. tattered clothes. cats. mangy dogs. once in awhile burka’d women. “check it out. dude’s got a cell phone. now where’s his wires?”

wait. there is wait. watch. recce stealth. stalk. you love it. you love it. stress. heat. deprivation. sweet man test. sweet watch. study. pattern of life. this is not the time to trigger. not the time to draw out. just study. wait. watch. who’s who in the zoo. prepare for the big op.

and me back here in another zoo. my own watch. self-imposed. as you.

today, prairie. again. heat. again. extreme. this time driven into the right ventricle of this continent by a buffalo expert. buffalo man. looking every bit the part. so tall. self-assured. knows his way around bison herds. knows his way around horses, weather, this land every bit as lethal, every bit as gorgeous as Afghanistan. but in other ways.

we shouldered packs (like you). bottled water (like you). a radio (like you). a rattlesnake kit (another kind of IED). he climbed the barb wire fence into the grasslands. I rolled beneath. we hiked deep into long needle and thread grass. walked over the past of old Red River cart tracks heading north south to Montana. we passed coyote trails. he taught me wild Bison 101, showed me old, then new bison wallow (think dust think thrash think bath think display think displace). then beds of splayed grass where the big animals sleep. thick locks of bison hair picked like cotton from the ground. I held it to my nose, inhaled wild gingery smells.

and the sun July’ed too hot for even rattlers. only an antelope down in the shade of the coulee. a single hawk lazing on a rancher’s fence. looking like he was waiting for takeaway.

at the lip of the coulee we stopped at double tipi rings. two circles of stone. someone’s summer. someone’s winter. home. a long time ago, bison man says, it would take 20 days for the buffalo herd to pass. unbroken river of heaving black bodies. the earth would quake. rattle for sure.

“there they are” he says. hands me his binos. and down in the bottom of the bowl, a herd of maybe 50. big boys in the middle. putting on their display. standing sideways all puffed up. adolescent. Alpha’ing. trying it out. and next to them new mothers with calves nursing. one twitch of the tail. then latch. and then satellite bulls. the ones who don’t make the mating grade. at the sides. kind of bison sentry, bison GD.

we walk a bit futher. put our gear down. it’s freaking hot but I’ve got the ballistics you bought for me. the ones with shades. and they more than do the job. keep me light. along with my hat. then I wear the Shemagh you brought from KAF. wear it Lawrence of Arabia style. and the breeze from Montana keeps me cool. we sit and we sit. bison man’s binos glued to me. watch pattern of life. here. where the only incoming is dragonfly.

and it’s perfect. July afternoon.


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled pattern of life (from May Day). It was posted here on July 26, 2010.


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