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Observation Post

 

Observation Post

 

 

Drawn into a land of hatred, Shias

against Sunnis, Shias against Shias, everyone

against us, the hot night compresses

the politics of war down to the unglamorous life

of a soldier, sitting, smelling sweat, swatting

sleepless desert flies in the half-broken walls

of a roofless, bombed-out house on a hill

under a waxing moon.

 

Where the edge of Sadr City fragments,

a proto-urban landscape of houses, open fields,

palm groves, we watch the layers of ambiguity,

the darkened, sirocco-blown silent houses, streets

of parked beat-up cars, fields moving with shadows

driven by clouds under the moon.  Another night

of long, uncomfortable watchfulness, suspense

creeping through streets, hiding behind palms.

 

In night vision binos a sergeant sees a man moving

too quickly between houses, where men sometimes

find the street to urinate before dawn traffic starts.

Maybe nothing, but like a ghoul, the figure pulls

at the sergeant's nerve.  He can't find him now, sees

another man moving, then a third.  "Who are they?"

and the uneasy feeling of attack grows, unsaid,

in the chests of soldiers.

 

One of us whispers "Men moving, over"

into the backpack radio, to the Humvees staged

closer to the city behind some warehouses.

Sand floats in over the walls.  As we wait for answer

memory sweeps back to the last battle…

 

groups of turbaned men coming like wolves, Apache helos

coming like eagles, their missiles raising the ground

in red flames under men moving through palm groves.

Rifle fire rattling, RPG explosions taking breath: whether

you are alive or not unknowable in the quick percussion

and deafening sound

 

As five soldiers hinge night vision goggles down

from helmets, move through the walls looking

like strange birds down the back of the hill

to search out these suspicious shadows, adrenaline

tightens muscles, tightens grips on rifles, and memory

grips our chests, wind now expectant on our faces.

 

 Steven Croft

  

An Army combat veteran, Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia on a property lush with vegetation. His poems have appeared in Willawaw Journal, Ariel Chart, So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, San Pedro River Review, Poets Reading the News, Gyroscope Review, The New Verse News, and other places. A Croft poem is nominated for the Pushcart Prize for Poetry, 2020.


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1 Comments

  1. with dignity so shall you go into time. we need that reminder.

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