Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Vest

Composite-stacked ceramic
And boron carbide,
Produced in flawless stacks,
Set in ballistic nylon,
Wrapped in bit-mapped camouflage. 
            Hand-molded plastic explosive,
            Finger-dented green/gray clay.
            Strips of duct tape torn on teeth,
            Scavenged wires,
            A nine-volt battery.
It is 35-pounds.
Add MOLLE pouches of
220 rounds 5.56 mm ball,
PVS-14 Night vision device,
Tactical LED flashlight,
Two PowerBars,
A St. Christopher medal.
The trauma plate
Clamped tight
Across a throbbing heart.
            18.21 kilos,
            Of economic explosive power,
            Chock with steel ball bearings,
            Rusted nails,
            A Minnie Mouse keychain
            Thrown in as a joke.
            Shaking wires are inserted
            Into the terminals
            Of the battery
            Hung between supple shoulder blades.
Add Rules of Engagement card,
Geneva Convention booklet,
Improvised Explosive Device ID pamphlet,
And omnipresent scrutiny
Of camera lenses, videophones, and
Ever-swarming blogosphere.
            Weighed with the severity of ancestry,
            The aegis of millennia,
            The densities of generations of
            Faith and righteousness,
            It seeks direct hits
            On newsprint across the globe.
The product of science,
Of industry, of modern innovation,
And limitless American funding.
It sails through Congressional budgets
Employs flag-toting constituents,
And stops AK-47 rounds
At point-blank range.
            An assemblage of
            Time-honed utility:
            Iranian plastique,
            A bastardized remote control.
            It costs two $100 USD bills,
            A few dinar,
            Years of refracted faith,
            And the unwavering word of Allah.
It is the best in the world
At what it does.
            It is the best in the world
            At what it does.           
But it is useless in fire,
Defenseless against concussion,
And cannot check human will.
            But it is vulnerable,
            To both wavering faith
            And faulty soldering.
Every day shield
A rock of security,
Defender of organs and arteries,
It is his home away from home
Away from home.
Guardian, defender,
Resistor of steel-jacket projectiles
And flying shredded steel,
One vehicle of many
To take him far back home.
            It is both accomplishment,
            And accomplice.
            A pinnacle;
            The achievement of study,
            Devotion and trial.
            The key to Jannah,
            His vessel to salvation;
            Virgin maidens,
            Beautiful mansions,
            And the favor of Allah.
It is technology
            It is finality
It is power projected
            It is faith absolute
It is his savior
            It is his conduit

It is his ticket out

Of dead-end jobs

Of street corner cigarettes.
And now it walks the dusted streets of Ba’qubah

Searching for culmination.

The Dude

A charred filet of man is lodged
Under the smoke discharger.

There are seared nuggets of him
Wedged into the grill.

There are random other chunks and streaks
All over the truck;
A hairy sliver slapped into
The cupola gearing,
Something dark and meaty
Mashed across the rivets
Around the bullet-proof glass,
His fats and oils smeared
Across the windshield.

The meager wipers
Only smear it around
While the dribble of wiper fluid
Just beads and runs off of him.

He was walking down the sidewalk
When the car bomb hit.
Rigged artillery rounds ripped the taxi
Into flying shrapnel,
Twisted hunks of steel
Screamed through the air
Tore him in half.

His torso exploded across the windshield
Legs evaporated,
Into small
Charred pieces.

Was he an insurgent
With bad timing?
Was he the signal man?
Was he an agitator, a recruiter, a sympathizer? 
Was he strolling back to work at the market
After a midday prayer?
Was he a cobbler, a mechanic, a father of three?
I don’t know those things.

But now,
It’s hard to see the road through him.

And he’s starting to reek;
His bits baking and broiling
On the skillet-hot, sun-baked steel
Of these 120-degree days.
It stinks of rot,
Of rancid human oils
Of shit and piss and brains –
All so quickly diced, flash-fried,
Pureed, then evenly spread
Across this armored truck.

We drive together,
The Dude and I,
As the wind catches just right;
Floating through the open gunner’s cupola
And filling my nose.
I breathe in the stink
Of rotting, baking human flesh.
I breathe in The Dude.

Who informed his family?
Who picked up his legs
From the yard they landed in?
What grief counselor talked
To the little boy that found his foot?

At least we named him,
However generic ‘The Dude’ is.
The little girl,
The one with half her head blown away,
The one who asked us for candy at the police station
But now lies face down in the street,
Eyes and mouth agape,
We couldn’t even bare
To give her a name.

My hand aches.

My hand aches because
My hand is empty. 

My hand misses the feel,
The weight,
The finality. 

My hand misses the ominous grip,
Designed by thoughtful engineers,
Allowing the quick reach of a finger
Onto the trigger,
The steadying sister hand wrapped around the fore-grip,
My cheek welded to the stock,
My eyes searching
Through the site posts
For a target,
For center mass. 

My hand is hungry. 
Hungry to touch again the steel 
The aluminum 
The plastics
The power - and the glory.

My hand is hungry, 
Hungry for the pull of its fingertip on the trigger that leads to the hammer that releases the bolt that drives the pin into the primer that leads to the explosion of powder in the chamber;
The 556 round flying, a ripping six-grove, right-handed spin, exploding from the barrel upon a wave of fiery gas...
That leads to the chest erupting.
That leads to the ruptured, cavernous exit wound. 
That leads to the skull coming apart
In chunks. 

My aching hand has me
Clearing my living room
Hunting at bars
Sizing up distances and windage
On the lone figure in the distance,
Look for a kill shot. 

My hand misses its weapon.
That weapon pressed into it
By drill sergeants and NCO's.
The weapon locked to it
By training and exercises,
By repetition
By muscle memory. 
My hand misses its weapon,
The one welded into it
Every day for a long, hot, dangerous year,
The weapon
Branded into it,
Branded into the flesh of my hand,
And the grooves of memory,
For life. 

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