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Perimeter Watch


ISSUE:  Fall 2008

I’ve locked the doors tonight, checking the bolts twice just to make sure.
Turned off all the lights. Only the fan blades rotate above, as slow as helicopters
winding down in their oily gears.

I can hear the water buffalo outside.
They’ve been there for hours, chewing on the front grass, snorting.
When the sprinklers switch on, white cowbirds lift up off their shoulders
with heavy wingbeats, a column of feathers rising over my home,
wing tips backlit by the moon.

I peer through venetian blinds to see
the Iraqi prisoners in that dank cell at Firebase Eagle, staring back at me.
They say nothing, just as they did in the winter of 2004, wordless
in the piss-cold dark, on scraps of cardboard, staring.

Snipers traverse the skyline
from the neighbor’s rooftops. There are helicopters on station, fifteen minutes out.
And out in the dark, it’s difficult to tell the living from the dead. They walk
through elephant grass, through thickets of papyrus, lining the asphalt streets.
I see Bosch, my old rifleman, sleepwalking among them. He is on fire
and doesn’t realize it.

I see the Stryker, Ghost 3, parked in my driveway.
I know the guys inside watch Iraqi women in the white-hot lens
of the gun-mount camera, eager for the bright heat of their sex to smolder.
Beside it, a minivan idles with its passengers dying inside,

while down the street,
an explosion sets off the neighbor’s car alarm. And then, it quiets again.
The Iraqis sitting on my porch wait with great patience for Doc High,
who treats the wounded by the pool in the backyard, where I can see
the Turkish cook with the shrapnel in the back of his head, his mouth foaming,
and beside him, the dead infant from the orange groves of Balad, while in the pool
one of the battalion scouts floats face-first in the blue current.

Where is my M4?
Where are my smoke grenades and my flak vest and my plates of body armor?
And as I wander through the house searching for them, I hear the twelve-year-old boy
just outside the front door—Where is my father? he says, Let free my father. My father no bad man. Let go my father.

And I don’t know what to do. When I dial 911
the operator tells me to use proper radio procedure, reminding me once again
that my call sign is Ghost 1-3 Alpha,

and that it’s time, long past the time really—
the time has come to once again unlock the door
and let these people in.

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