War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Acanthus Leaves

M,

J. told me about your meet and greet. the elders their beards soft. white. their wool caps. you without helmet. the maple leaf at your shoulder faded from too much sun, sand, dust. the colour of old blood. patched on your upper sleeve. beneath ISAF. the queen’s crown.

a cup of mint tea fresh poured in a cracked cup cradled in your left hand.
talking wells. and schools. and the bridge you want to build. and a new fire truck.

then a boy comes through the door. jacket buttoned. mid-day. 41celcius.

beware the absence of normal, the presence of the abnormal. your mantra ticks.
(you repeat it when you skirt mud puddles, bunches of sticks, rock piles, even though you know damn well there are no IEDs planted on west coast trails. couldn’t help yourself when we hiked the Juan de Fuca last year).

then the scream. get down get the fuck down. he’s wired. he’s fucking wired. this is it.
but you were quicker. the boy had no chance. to pull whatever it was.

your right hand free. your gun. his forehead. gone.

then a dry thud. outside the door. bomb boy. m. jihad (don’t tell anyone that’s what we call them J. said) only this one’s bomb partly detonates. and now his hands, red meat mitts. shreds. and he’s screaming his fucking head off. bleeding to death.

and J. tells me all of this. how you almost died that day. as he sits in my cosy chair beside the wood stove. the chair you fell asleep in last time you were here. the one with overstuffed arms and back. acanthus leaves spread all over it. you fell asleep so deep I thought you’d have thorned leaves tattooed onto your back when you woke.

and I made J. a pot of roiboos. the same I sent you last package. it calms. I drink lots of it. offered him whisky. said he didn’t want anything strong. just wanted to sit. listen to the oak clock click on the mantle. and J. walks stiff. looks smaller. bigger too. says he loves it out there hitching rides on Black Hawks. settling nights in the desert just him and his radio man. the 2 of them. scouting. lone wolf stuff. man tests.

but J. says the real heroes are the truck drivers. balls, big balls, those guys bringing supplies. it’s a NASCAR out there. all the time. J. worships the medics. want to see real courage? he leans towards me, watch medics triage the bad guy first. see our guys, less-wounded glare. the medics saved bomb boy first before the wounded brothers. that handless shit. like to see him scratch his ass now. never mind twist wires. J. takes a sip. closes his eyes. falls asleep.

acanthus leaves curl green. sharp. this midsummer night. and you still so far away. o M.

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Welcome to MayDay

MayDay is a series of letters in prose, poem, txt, email, of a young woman to her infantryman lover serving in Afghanistan.

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