Thursday, January 27, 2011

War Poem

I am an American

Red like arterial spray

Washing worn out

Down mountaintops

Snaking through grassy plains

Passed the old gold claims

Fast like a miner’s cart

That has gone off track

And when they said

There is no going back

I breathe in

Like an inner city desperation

Like a hit of crack

We have friends too though

Spanning time like skipping records

On a hot summer day

When the wax is melting

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jerkin It

It was a hundred and nineteen degrees in Kuwait, which made it closer to a hundred and thirty in the porta-potty. I was trying to focus and there was a rumor that a battle was coming our way, up north in Iraq. I was reading the blue plastic walls kindly delivered to us by a contractor that drew his paycheck from Dick Cheney stock. Black sharpie writing of naked women served for inspiration the way it might in prison. Some jarhead had written, “I should have swallowed the blue pill,” a Matrix reference. The smell of ammonia wafted over the piss that rested over the shit and we were baking together in the desert heat.
Earlier in the day our Company Gunnery Sergeant had held a formation and made us wait for his word in the middle of the desert. The sun was peaking over the bleached sand, we were burning and the grunts were getting angry the way the higher chain of command liked it. We were wondering if this was going to be the word that would send us to war. He was a short black man and had been to Kuwait a dozen years before, probably when he was nineteen like me. I was on fire inside and out, we had been standing in the same spot for twenty minutes, waiting, the way the higher chain of command liked it.
Before we could find a way to kill ourselves at the position of parade rest he came strutting out of his air conditioned circus tent. “You motherfuckers think you’re cute. Y’all like having a good time, fuckin’ around in the desert acting like gad damn children. Now I hear ya’ every now and again talkin’ about how you want to be treated like a man and I get it. But then I walk into the porta-shitter and I see nothing but graffiti. Let me tell you what Alpha Company, as soon as you start acting like men we’ll treat you like men. The next motherfucker I catch writing in the porta-jon is going to stand outside that motherfucker until the next guy writes in it, good to go?” The company responded with a low, “Errr.” The barely acceptable response only second to the “Yut,” which was our way of saying fuck off.
We were now sunburned because we had blown off steam on a plastic wall. After the formation I took off to the porta-head and found myself sweating through my cammies, my heart rate was reaching the red line and the adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I planted my seed in the urinal portion of the mobile toilet like hundreds before me, the goup was so thick it was no use peeing down the thing. I put my trousers on and pulled my sharpie out. I drew an arrow from the back blue plastic wall that pointed down to the poop chute. Above the arrow I wrote, “My Chain Of Command.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I was nineteen years old on my fifth night in the battle of Fallujah. We would camp in one of the houses that we had broken into. The machine gunners would sleep on the rooftop and take post when it was their turn, the riflemen would sleep inside and rotate to the rooftop and take post next to the machine gunners. Third platoon’s navy medic had ripped some bedroom doors off of their hinges and offered me one to sleep on. I accepted and wrapped myself in the thin blotchy camouflaged liner I used as a blanket. The riflemen slept on the concrete floor around us talking in their sleep. I tucked myself in and placed the radio handset to my ear, a plastic phone that made a noise like television static. I fell asleep.
The cigarette cherry burned like hundreds before it. Sometimes I would put them out on my hand grenades. I would talk about the girls back home I wanted to sleep with. Women in their late teens danced like strippers in my day dreams. We would swap stories and ammunition when it was time. When it was cold we would cuddle, grown men dreaming of young women. She sent me pictures once, she posed in front of an apartment wall and I would pull them out of my radio pack and wish. I fell asleep.
Before the war, when I was young I would listen to music and write short fiction late at night. The computer screen would glow when the lights were off and I was alone; tapping away at a keyboard listening to the music of plastic on skin. Movie posters littered my walls and I would write to them. Girls would call so I would talk to them, and I wanted to be a man. In high school I was the lead singer in a punk band. A friend in our crew killed himself my junior year and I stayed up one night and wrote him down. I fell asleep.
A few days before I left for boot camp I went on a camping trip with my father and friends. From out of the grey Sierra Mountains flew two Marine helicopters. My father shouted at them, or at me, “Marines, Marines!” I felt an anxiety wash over me and I could hear the nearby rushing stream washing down from the mountains. The day before I left we went to breakfast and I could not eat. He dropped me at the recruiter’s office and we said goodbye.
He gave me his old radio pack and I took his old job. The staff sergeant spent months training me how to use that radio. Knobs stuck out of the olive drab brick and I learned the trade. One day in Iraq I slapped him on the back and we laughed about the radio. He told me he was glad he didn’t have to hump it around anymore. Down the road I heard the gunfire. They pulled him out of the house after tossing their hand grenades, he had fallen asleep.
A black man handed me blue pajamas. I put them on and he had noticed my tattoos. He asked if I was a Marine. I replied that I was and he noticed that I had noticed where I was so he told me I would be one of two coherent men in the mental hospital that night. I slept in a room with two beds, two government issued pillows and two blankets like boot camp. The schizophrenic in my room talked to himself and paced in the moonlight. I stayed awake, afraid that he might hurt me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Free Tree

There is a hope I hope. I dream that 2004 will become a brick in the foundation that will support the man I want to become. The fallen brothers will cheer from the sidelines and help. We will run the marathon together and always think of each other, not in a way that takes but we shall give. My youth will never be restored but can be learned from. There will be another generation, one I help grow, little sapling that I can water in the ways of peace and knowledge. I want to see the sun rise over free soil, its rays nourishing a long lost dream of equality. The plants are not all the same size, but the taller fronds pass onto the lower fronds and that is how we will survive. A lake of history channels feed life and this time we will have understood what the dying were talking about, be they old and wise or young wounded and suddenly wise.
From a far away mountaintop a man shouts “The war is over,” and this time we understand. This man knows bloodshed, not detached but holds the key to empathy greater than he. No tears are shed and no people are weak, they understand that if we are to survive together a new world must be created. Religion is personal and not dictating, faith flowers in the soul and we will no longer have to prove this to the other. The children question you and you are proud of the individual, little sapling will grow. They will wonder why the old ones lived so strange and we will let them. Blue sky will speak to them the way it speaks to the passing and you hope to see one more second of it.
Little seed has grown and it listens to the ocean and is lost in the tone. The grain of sand will be all that remains of the old and insane. When we want to fight we will talk and when we want to die it will be the time that we watched tick on a clock. There was a dream that once flowed deeper than the deepest soul you have ever known. It watered the seeds and grew you and YOU must carry the pale to the shore. Garden the small things that could not survive without you, garden the small things that could not survive without you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sweger part 2

We sat in front of the armory cleaning weapons in Okinawa Japan. Fallujah was over; our days were easy as third platoon waited to finally go home. The base bugle sounded colors and we set our weapons down and snapped to the position of attention. The first song was the Japanese national anthem and base regulation mandated that we salute. I stood at attention with many others, refusing the salute. I felt guilty saluting a flag that had been captured by past and passed brothers and felt the conquered blacktop beneath my boots. When our national anthem played the rest of us saluted.
After colors I turned in my clean weapon and traded it for another. The armory custodian handed me the new gun, he had been a machine gunner replacement for a wounded squad in third platoon during Fallujah. We smiled and we had that brother understanding. I returned to my weapon cleaning, I broke the weapon down like I had been taught in bootcamp, I could have three rifles inspection ready in an hour. I moved from the rifle bore to the outer exterior, working my way down and never up, the dust and carbon flakes would fall to the ground. I picked up the stock and the catch was broken, I inspected inside beyond the plastic door that swung loosely. Inside the compartment were skull fragments and dry blood. I swore and tossed the stock to the ground. The blood ran from my face. I had heard a rumor that the armory custodian might have shot him on accident, that story made sense when the accused requested to clean the weapon of the dead awkward man surprised to death by a jack in the box. I asked the custodian to check the serial number of the rifles previous owner. He said his name and I handed him the weapon to finish cleaning.


He was walking down a street in Fallujah Iraq. The power lines sagged and the light poles leaned at awkward angles. He was awkward, the catch for the door to the compartment on his rifle’s stock had broken and the piece of plastic jangled loosely in the chilly winter breeze. The city looked like suburban Southern California, stucco clad and uniform; every house had a gate, and most had rooftop access. The civilians had fled our sector but locked all of the doors behind them, which left empty houses that we spent the day breaking into. Every now and then a suicidal group of Jihadi’s would surprise the infantrymen like a jack in the box.
This had happened and third platoon was down a squad after a successful group of suicidal Jihadi’s popped out of houses and surprised the infantrymen like jack in the box’s. He had not been there but had come to third platoon to help replace the wounded squad. By trade he was a machine gunner. He had not had to clear many houses before, that was the rifleman’s job, and after the house was cleared the machine gun would be placed on the rooftop to cover the riflemen on the ground level. Now he was a rifleman and that was alright with him, everything was always alright with him. His haunting smile floats in dreams, a buddah, only speaking of his family and his girl back home, was always going to go back home.
The Captain had told the Lieutenant to tell the grunts that someone was going to die the next day. We sat next to each other on the tracked vehicle, which would vibrate violently for a few miles and come to an abrupt stop that would toss around the Marines on the benches. The back hatch would drop and the Marines would run out the hole, fresh into sunlight.
I would walk next to the Lieutenant and listen to my radio chatter. There was an argument between the leader of first platoon and my Lieutenant as to which platoon was going down which street. They switched streets and third platoon carried on down its new broken down blown out city route. I watched him as the Lieutenant and I followed another squad. The power lines were sagging behind the leaning light poles and I wondered why he didn’t fix that damn catch and close that plastic door jangling awkwardly from his stock. He didn’t care, not about that or anything, he was going home. The suicidal Jihadi’s surprised him to death and startled the other Marines when they popped out of a house like a jack in the box.