THE BOOTS ON THE GROUND
The boots on the ground aren’t boots
they’re packs of young men roaming
streets eternal out-of-towners in combat
patrols come to see the valley of death
that is the cradle of civilization.
Sightseeing tours of duty:
street corner claymore mines
DIY daisy chains
IEDs built into the fucking roads.
Fresh laid blacktop
and ancient alley are equal parts
alligator snapping turtle
and shrapnel swallows.
Feeling expands in the air
scorching in gouts.
Out past the perimeter,
terror’s on every side—
stoned and immaculate.
ODE TO A WISHING WELL
In the presence of God we recycle
rests and resets and strategic reserves.
I have distances—
trenches I kept away from myself.
I have worn the shadow
on my face—the smudging eye black
my horse-bridal bit and mouth piece.
Tastes of dried saliva and freedom
brush your cheek. When I kiss
you leave a coin in my mouth. Token
and totem, I cheek the entire deployment.
Chipmunk choking on dimes at taps
checks out every morning. Each today
tastes like burnt maybes,
like shisha might smell—
burnt, maybe. Today,
I sweat some copper,
taste blood, spit blood refuses
to heal. The same way Sargent
Heaton’s spilt femoral will forever
Be the one artery I can’t seal.
can’t locate it, clamp it, pressure a
kink in his hearts hose. I tear open one
last chance in a pouch. Dump
powdered flesh fire, a caustic fairy dust
called quickclot into an arterial rupture.
Artery’s structures can fail catastrophically
can becoming a blood sprinkler. Incarnadine
spigot we were led we believed was not
just us being bled in the desert, deservedly.
Rarely seen abandoning mu post
to overhear Psyops NCOs laughing
while tying blindfolds over Sunni girls’
Disabuse the mujahedeen of his
Abusive conventional portrayal of
I choke on MREs.
Pound-cake provisions civilian
contractors and our NCOIC of
requisitions all beholden to a
Pangaea One World Bakery production.
I am unleavened and pursued
by a million-man march of flies.
Flitting points of my compasses point
out to me: desert robin hood is played
by the desert fox.
Needle points due north, then true north,
then at a deserted friar tuck.
The night sky, a backlit hand
Puppet. a star-dogged moon
silhouetting your hand, running over
me and absorbing my surfaces.
Copper blood and disembodied pennies
wells in Damascus where young Muslim
men serve what is clean and acquirable—
recovered coins. Buy lebin and hobez.
taste of ferrous as and copper. Upon there
retrieval—the slushing up from cisterns
in buckets this blood I
cheek a prayer,
ODE TO MRE NO. 08: BEEF PATTY
Out of sky
like a segmented, rotting lemon
once cool yellow hemispheres
attached to nothing.
jaws of jackals
your Internal organs.
falling, moveable feast
My ka-bar scalpel
and empties you
in the air,
in the smoke,
in the broken alley
in the water
that is plutonium
of a magical
furnace that little
heater and two
wheat snack breads.
ODE TO THE CAULDRON OF GREY SHIT HUNGARIAN SOLDIERS ARE ALWAYS EATING
in our desert,
DEATH IS A MIDNIGHT RUNNER
We drank vodka from Aquafina bottles
as sophomores. Designing sin, resting
on cinder-blocks like dormitory
couches. Between Ashley and Josie
our attention hinged like rattlesnake jaws—
to strike and consume.
Our necks’ musculature
our pivot point toggle
between predator and prey.
you’d run your mouth about
picking up Wyoming girls
nobody else talented like you.
Girl, you looked artful
now slipping away
everyone coheres to
My November accident
my honest hard looks
that baited your eyes—
catching cornea long
enough to see the hinge
I would hang between
your breasts and damnation
buckling like knees
we’d fuck around
never grasping that something
clawed crawled into being
in those sweating breathless hours—
sophomores call fucking
and eight-dollar Tijuana sunglasses
winter midnight’s perspiration
snowblinded icicle shadow
in a Bighorn mountain town
I walked out to get liquor
and saw the eternal footman
on his smoke break
eating a Snickers
and I sorta’ was afraid.
I never realized love’s contract
entails someone’s failure
boundaries leave a soul’s
see the burn marks
where I lashed myself to you
When I realized I was losing you
firemen would find me drowning
in mountain air.
You were the shark
we’d found trapped
by tide and sandbar
that summer we drove
all the way to Cape Cod.
Remember how we tried
moving it back into the ocean?
We wanted to hit the snooze button
put nine more minutes on some
cosmic alarm clock
It wouldn’t let us
faces the firing squad
puffs a cigarette
refuses the blindfold.
The martyr stares
at her imminent death
and sees only
At eighteen our souls were double jointed
so we held our breath long enough
to see the mosaic. How right
before we passed out
the visible and invisible flickered.
(TERMINAL LEAVE SONNET)
I am the patron saint of lost causes
and dying children, hovering between
Big Horn Range and chromatically intoned
Lethe—too thin in craggy atmospheres
where blue lakes reflection of God and goose
waxes with infectious glare—late afternoon
sun, feted contagion breathe your exile
through canyon troughs creased finger pads
brush monkshood, graft stars onto troposphere.
Silence’s falling isn’t the state but the event—
exhaling asbestos plumes, plaster dust
spit from which I must shape my home
I’m not a poet but a vanishing.
About the author:
Aaron Graham hails from Glenrock, Wyoming, population 1159, which boasts seven bars, six churches, a single 4-way stop sign and no stoplights. His work explores the relationship of desire and violence currently ostensibly through juxtaposing Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with classical exilic figures. He is an alumnus of Squaw Valley Writers Workshop and the Ashbury Home School. He is a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served with Marine Corps Intelligence as an Arabic linguist. Aaron is currently finishing his PhD at Emory University; specializing in modernist poetics, Arabic language poetry, continental philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience.