Loaded down with prisoners after another night’s raid
we pulled into the airbase in Mosul, the men
gagged, zip-tied, blindfolded with engineer tape.
Forsman ate a Snickers bar up in the hatch
while everybody else slept shoulder to shoulder,
First Platoon’s radio silent of chatter, humming in static.
I held a 9 mm pistol in my hand and watched
how the prisoner’s heads slumped in resignation,
one of them mumbling in a slow rocking of prayer.
And I didn’t feel a thing. I just wanted to sleep.
I wanted to wake up and find myself
in California, anywhere else but here.
We turned them over to the MPs, who looked bored
of caffeine and paperwork, and I filled out the depositions
while the Iraqis were shunted into the wire holding pens.
And I remember complaining once about the Discotheque,
that nearby container I mistook for an on-base club—
Where the pogues chill out, I said, those fucking pogues.
From that metal box shrouded in a camouflage netting
I never heard the screaming. I never heard the breaking of men.
I heard only music. Guitars in their distorted horns.
The deposition forms don’t have a space
for the women, who sat huddled together
in the darkness of the front room, sobbing.
Through night-vision goggles, they appeared
a glaucous green, a luminous and unnatural vision,
and one of them, with cat’s eyes of light, saw me.
The men of military age were bound, silenced
in another room. I numbered them with a Sharpie
penned to the white tape of the blindfold.
And those many depositions I wrote,
the many sentences I framed in careful precision,
have they been translated into Arabic?
Farid, Hasan, Mohammed, Abdullah, Jafar.
How many have heard my words spoken in court?
The accuser. The professor. Sgt. Turner.
Late at night, Jackowski and I taped the flex-charge
to the gate. I unspooled the shock tube. Removed the safety.
Hathaway radioed the countdown—and when he reached zero—
I pulled the pin. It was me, Sgt. Turner,
who cracked the night open with explosives
and wrote it all down, word by word, afterward.
* * *
It’s been four years now. I’ve aged some. Grown a beard.
And I went to Europe this year, on vacation.
Steamed in the Gellért Baths, in Budapest.
Drank Tokaj. Heard Dixieland jazz on the Charles Bridge
in Prague. Saw the lights on the waters of Marseilles.
And the days, they continue to pass on, one by one.
In Poland, on the Baltic coast, I’ve rented a flat now
from Darick and Goshe. I eat fish and drink black coffee
for breakfast. I read from Seife’s Zero: The Biography
of a Dangerous Idea. And when I climb to the peak
of the coastal dunes, here in the Sowinski National Park,
I find nothing but the wind, the Baltic’s blue sea, sand.
It is here where the dunes drive inward, inexorably,
year after year, the inland forest overtaken by it,
to be buried in sand completely, with me at its summit
taking it all in—the far horizon, the arc of the sun,
the skeletal forms of the pines that remain,
behind me, emerging, as the dunes push farther in.
for Tony Logouranis