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VA Hospital Confessional


ISSUE:  Fall 2008

Each night is different. Each night the same.
Sometimes I pull the trigger. Sometimes I don’t.

When I pull the trigger, he often just stands there,
gesturing, as if saying Aren’t you ashamed?

When I don’t, he douses himself
in gasoline, drowns himself in fire.

A dog barks in the night’s illuminated green landscape,
and the platoon sergeant orders me to shoot it.

Some nights I twitch and jerk in my sleep.
My lover has learned to face away.

She closes her eyes when I fuck her. I imagine
she’s far away, and we don’t use the word love.

When she snores, I hear the helicopters
coming in low over the date palms.

I remember the men bound on their knees, shivering
in the animal stall, long before dawn.

I remember whispering into their ears, saying
Howlwin? Howlwin?—meaning—Mortars? Mortars?

Howl wind, motherfucker? Howl wind?
The milk cow stared with its huge brown eyes.

The milk cow wanted to know
how I could do this to another human being.

I checked the haystack in the corner
for a weapons cache. I checked the sewage sump.

I tell no one, but sometimes late at night
I uncover rifles and bullets within me.

Other nights I drive through Baghdad.
Or is it Firebaugh. Bakersfield. Kettleman City.

Some nights I’m up in the hatch, shooting
a controlled pair into someone’s radiator.

Some nights I hear a woman screaming.
Other nights I shoot the crashing car.

When the boy brings us a platter of fruit,
I mistake cantaloupe for a human skull.

Sometimes the gunman fires into the house.
Sometimes the gunman fires at me.

Every night it’s different.
Every night the same.

Some nights I pull the trigger.
Some nights I burn him alive.

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