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Retreat

by D. A. Gray

I.

Redness invades a soldier’s face
after the vice of crossed arms closes
against the cracked proving ground.
Still, it suprises me. We practice
the chokes, the pressure points, the things
I hope we’ll never use. My hands grip
his collar from the inside
in that textbook way so my arms
can cross, scissor-like cutting air.

“Switch places!” booms the instructor’s voice
and my head rests now, near a black
fire ant mound. It is only a matter of time
before the invaded army swarms.

My partner grabs, pulls, crosses
and, staring upward, the white sky blinds
until air vanishes and the world
turns black again.

II.

On another country’s unforgiving earth
one hand learns to rest on the trigger well.
The other hand rehearses: grab, pull, cross.
Oil black eyes follow me, never quite
meeting mine. Children stare from open doors
at my neck. School has been closed six years
and I have become their text.
These days there is only time: watch, study, wait.

Even the ground, where beneath doorways
a camel spider drags the larger lizard
in its jaw, strives to take a man’s breath away.

III.

The house that welcomes me back
feels foreign, as if ceramic tile
dares to crack beneath my soles
which still carry grains of sand.
Outside the screen door, a moth
breaks its body against the porch light.
Interlocking my fingers the only way
I know not to catch it mid-frustrated-flight
and rub its body between fingertips.

In our bedroom you are stretched
half-naked across our mattress.
“Why do you never sleep here?”
I can only shrug while looking at your neck
knowing where each vein and artery rest.

I wander off, another night drawn
to greased blue television light,
hands under my folded arms. I know
these hands wait for a more useful task.

Dwight Gray retired after 25 years of service (22 active). Currently he is studying for my MFA at Sewanee School of Letters in the summers and his MS at Texas A&M Central Texas. His work has been published in Grey Sparrow Journal, Poetry Salzburg Review and in his chapbook of war poems titled Overwatch (Grey Sparrow Press, November 2011).

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