the green man
Oct 13, 2009
Sometime between sweat and boredom,
48 hours canned in a LAV, let out
for a piss, a few hours to ^ pup tents,
undress, close eyes, seal into biv bag,
listen to coughing, ’06 guys rambling,
geese above squawking,
me leaning my head outside long enough
to puke last night’s rats into my boots,
no dreams before sunrise,
then slammed into the LAV again,
I met you. At dusk,
your face coated green with grime,
Suffield’s weird fluorescent dirt,
your temperates leafed your body
buffed by a hard year.
I kissed you on the cheek
relieved to see you
in the midst of my feigned hardship,
my stomach ache.
That was the dust-devils’ Ex.,
your last, sooted hills of live-fire,
the gastro that bedded a thousand soldiers
quicker than girls working overtime—
you remained untouched,
your Afghan-tempered guts
had stood up to too much
squalor and pain to fell you.
That was the Ex. sapper took his life,
then another followed the next week,
(I heard that from another sapper
at WWx down at Nakhhonay);
death skinned grass with hail—
though pasque flowers fought back
green and feathery
through the leather of late winter’s earth,
even where LAVs scythed, and 105s,
F 18s, Apaches stitched
the prairie with rounds of fire.
Our soundtrack, day and night
was pounding, the whoop whoop whoop
of helicopter blades, fly boys in the sky
laughing at infantrymen leaguered in mud,
the bastards cut any peacefulness we could recall.
Still, owls, pronghorns and swallows, blessed the hills.
And searching for a cell signal on higher ground,
to call home, tell them I was alright,
I met you green and grimacing,
your eyes cracked open
wearing 26 years like 80, standing
beside your LAV. You ancient
in me. Safe. Then smiling. I could see spring.
But green man,
last night’s call—maybe the last
or second-to-last before—your voice
was ragged and fast as if you’d been shaken
awake after balloons and farewells, booze,
your mother and father’s tears.
So far away I could barely reach,
though the line clear.
I left candles and the thanksgiving table
to take your call. Ignored family,
friends, the warm fire.
Urged you to eat and remember.
This morning it’s only hours.
Before you board the Herc.
And it’s cold autumn, the poplars
crack, thrash leaves,
last summer’s telephone calls,
from me to you, you to me,
have fallen to the earth to seed again.
And I’m tempted to call you,
but I want you to sleep.
I send you rest, my best peace,
hoping to see you whole
maybe in some weeks,
in the desert, golden
this time, not green,
you smiling for me.