Pinned down two hours in a Buddhist graveyard
by two barefoot snipers who will not die
no matter how many mortars we walk their way.
They keep moving, the one firing, the other
doubling back where the mortars
have already been, nor are they silenced
by the gunship
now squandering its rockets
at inkblots flickering between trees.
These wraiths sing with their crack and whine,
We will die to hold you here
while the others slip away toward the mountains.
What will you die for?
Me hunkering behind a pitted tombstone
staring at a skull from a grave churned up by tanks.
You were dead when I got there, managed to drag yourself
almost to the treeline across the sandy open place
they planned to kill us in, the clearing I would have to
to get to you, and did, the tracers crossing overhead.
The round caught you dropping to the ground, entering
between neck and shoulder, taking the artery, the lung.
I had inside me in those days a circuit-breaker between
and heart that shut out everything but the clarity of fear.
I felt nothing for you then, rolling you over, looking for
the exit wound, nor when I put my mouth on yours and
hearing the gurgle that told me you had drowned in your
I knew only the muzzle flashes too close in front, the
cracking on my left and I flipped the switch and went cold,
the same whose wires I now tinker with these twenty-three
a filament flickering in the heart and then the blaze of
This morning I swam out
into the cold
where the depths began,
turned back toward the young
people on the beach, shouting,
Beautiful out here,
then felt the wind in my face
carrying my voice out
over the water like a lost scarf.