The Disappearing Man

The Disappearing Man

Can a tragic hero die every night on a bridge between
Baghdad Island Amusement Park and Camp Taji?
The stark, potholed road through the abandoned park,
poetics of its space like a sci-fi set, a lost desert planet, home
now to stray dogs, its hundred-fifty-foot central tower
a giant's golf tee with round top deck a prime place for a sniper
I always thought, ‘til that week the man on the bridge
died every night, and we took bolt cutters to the chained
metal door, walked all those tower stairs up to the sky-high
observation deck, the elevator with no power for years,
looking for shell casings, any sign of whoever was killing
the man on that bridge we could see clearly in daylight
beyond the park's looted and crippled rides -- just the palms
left whole -- on the brown-ribbon tributary of the Tigris,
while every night the Iraqi Army sent out a new man to walk
the boards to the chair midway across the flat bridge,
where he would rise to stop the occasional car, flash
a light on papers, wave it by to make the turn before
the East Gate of Taji, only this week, he would rise
to his death every night -- his only doubt could be
what hour of the night it would come.

We did not ask why the Iraqis kept sending him out, or
why he was there -- the one car bomb that hit the gate,
the driver just blew past him -- the East-Gate approach
was their command, we only sent our team into the tower
to wait in the soft night wind and watch that man die,
look for the muzzle flash, until two nights later our soldiers
found a black-clad sniper in the trees on the Tigris's sloping
bank, the red scarf around his neck wet from wiping brow
and eye in the humid river musk, waiting for the moonlight
and rise of the man on the bridge, and we -- with his rifle
shifting toward us -- we did to him what men do
in war.

And after the shots, after he found himself still standing,
with what relief the man on the bridge must have sat
back down in that chair,

Waiting, looking now, for morning's sun.

Steven Croft

An Army combat veteran, Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia on a property lush with vegetation. He has recent work in Willawaw Journal, Sky Island Journal, So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Third Wednesday, Red Eft Review, San Pedro River Review, Poets Reading the News, Gyroscope Review, and other places. 


  1. maybe they are collecting war poems like people collect football cards but damn nice to see iraq presented here. good job, son.

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