At night, a dust-covered camouflaged helmet rests
atop a pair of boots at the foot of his bunk
alongside his weapon and gear,
a laptop precariously perched on a olive-green
wooden box at bedside provides a wireless conduit
to wife, children, parents, friends;
a means to share mutual love, joy, fear.

He sits the bunk here after chow each evening
straddle-legged and hunched over the little machine,
dirty, bone-weary, yet driven to connect
if only for a few moments with a saner reality
before giving himself over to exhaustion and
a few hours sleep more and more likely these nights
to feature a replay of the suspense, the numbness,
the stark terror of yesterday, last week, an unforgettable date
long since forgotten, a blurring of possible tomorrows,
sometimes an aching emptiness of no possible tomorrows.

And then suddenly, coldly, it’s intermission time;
dreams on hold, daybreak once more.
But the intrigue continues, no beginning, no end.
The helmet, boots, weapon and LBE are missing;
the laptop, the box, the bunk remain.
He’s out there - fifth day of this operation,
part of a small group on patrol near Kandahar,
a mixed Taliban hot spot in southern Afghanistan.
A close call two (or was it three) days back, but he was lucky -
shattered rifle stock, scratches from flying M16 plastic.
His bunkie took one in the thigh the day before
(or maybe the next day), nearly bled out
before they staunched the bleeding.
R&R in Kuwait; he’ll be back.
But all in all, they’ve been lucky
so far.

A few more weeks of mopping up and
on to another section of the city, or maybe
a second sweep of the same terrain;
humanity parts when they move in,
fills the vacuum when they move on.

The MacBook sleeps fitfully on its makeshift perch,
awaiting his return indeterminate hours from now.
An almost inaudible purr emanates from its sleek shell,
sole evidence of a tenuous link to the “real” world.


an oldie - farm boy...

darned old school bus too slow
gravel/dirt roads, sleet falling, will
get home less than an hour before
sunset - end of pheasant hunting season
for the day

off the bus, an eighth-mile sprint to farmhouse
change to chores clothing, throw on old coat, cap, gloves
& pick up the old Remington Model 11 Auto - 12 gauge
with handful of shells
teeth marks on the stock evidence my father & uncle's
use of the old Model 11 on trapping runs in earlier days
- stock in the mouth of badger, fox, weasel & others
when releasing them while running traplines

time for one half-mile pass up, one half-mile pass back
through corn-stubbled field north of house & farm buildings
- crunching through subfreezing terrain - steady snow now - low visibility -

- puckering cold - bone chilling cold -

one bird flushes midway on outward pass - a hen gliding low to the field
I watch - tantalizing, but she's off limits & seemingly knows she's safe -
she disappears into the dimness of rapidly approaching darkness & the
blowing snow flurries

on return sweep, a couple hundred yards from home, a cock bursts from cover
cackling loudly - I throw a load of number sixes in his path & watch him crumble & fall

- dinner -

but first a 12 year old farm boy's chores time -
milking, feeding livestock, collecting eggs, odds & ends
- plenty of odds & ends -


it's an invisible vortex - a cyclonic titan within my mind
- it is my mind - a random myriad of words and thought
bound by centripetal force to spin furiously within
its seemingly untethered boundaries

and yet - at disparate random intervals a centrifugal storm
furiously flings words and thoughts against the revolving
perimeter enclosure where some cling limply to the damp
only to slowly lose their toehold and meaning as their
physical presence sadly droops through inattention

others, still less hardy, either congeal on the surface to meld
with one another and form a morose and senseless blob or,
if they are brittle, shatter and fall through the eye of the storm
to form a massive and seemingly infinitely deep verbal pool

the pressure relief valve spills these at random intervals
- some in patterns
- some seemingly random gibberish
which carries its own cryptic message



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