by Jonathan Tennis
Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category
by Chad Pettit
On a Sunday afternoon drive with my family
I stop the car in the middle of the road.
My wife panics, asks what’s the matter?
On the side of the road sits a trash bag.
It’s just plastic, but I can smell smoke
and hear the squelch of a radio.
The other drivers pass me, heads shaking.
I sit paralyzed, white-knuckling the steering wheel,
foot trembling on the brake pedal.
My wife tells me to breathe, but I’m
hypnotized by a wire that isn’t there.
My boots heel-to-toe step on mortar-shelled roads.
The radio on my shoulder demands a report.
Do I hear the choppers hovering? Hovering overhead? No.
No support this mission.
I spot mud huts and trash pile homes on the road
to the landfill city as I
figure-eight–scan freshly paved
My wife says it’s a trash bag, tells me to drive.
My heart beats to the rhythm of incoming,
and the boom of outgoing
steals my breath.
I see starving men with zip-tie bound wrists,
and sandbags covering their heads on highways of rubble.
“All clear, nothing to report, over.”
I look for the rifle they took away,
replaced with a gear shift.
I push my sunglasses up my sweating face,
take my wife’s hand, waiting in my lap
and drive past the trash bag slowly
Chad Pettit served in the Army Infantry for ten years, including two combat tours to Iraq. He teaches high school English and has a B.A. in English from Texas A&M University-Central Texas. He lives with his wife and four children in Copperas Cove, TX. His poems have appeared in The Lookout and The Anuran.
by J. Scott Price
There’s this valley someplace
that looked like
all the rest
though none of us knew
it contained our death.
A simple shithole of a spot
with no name on a map–no
grand historical battle space.
So there’ll be no consolation,
no transferred dignity
for our beloveds
when reverent whispers ask,
Where did they serve, how did they die?
Thankfully, though, no unmarked graves for us.
Our buddies brought our bodies back.
But I’ve met others
since that day I named the Paradox of Pain
without that seemingly simple,
remain where they fell
and turned to dust
in some other Nowhereville.
J. Scott Price served as an infantryman in the Virginia Army National Guard from 1986 until 2011, and deployed for both OIF and OEF. This poem gestated from events in Afghanistan and emerged seven years after his return.
by Keith Fosmire
The time is now!
move with the red in your eye.
not in the S.O.P.
An elaborate dance,
performed with no thought.
and you will get to your treat.
Too far now!
we NEVER RETREAT!
Twenty five hundred times
we practiced this drill.
My men of nine,
with your hollowed eyes
and gritting teeth,
let’s kill this foe
and find some more!
It’s over now!
Collect your treats, Joe,
and place them in their bags.
Send them to their wives,
I can already hear them howl.
I already miss that rhythm,
All of this done,
under the reign of the gunner!
Keith Fosmire served in Iraq Doara from 07-09 and Afghanistan Wardak from 2010-2011 with 10th Mountain. 4th BDE 2nd BN, 4th Infantry Division, as a Squad Leader. He has been married for over nine years to his soul mate Alisa, and is currently pursuing a BS in computer science at SUNY Oswego, New York.
by Adam Stone
I carry with me the weight of the nation, in a helicopter to save the world, provide relief to those in need. Rice and water, bread, Salt. We deliver, we ration.
I carry the tears of the forgotten blood. The grieving mother. The hungry child.
I carry the distant LZ, the optimistic relief. Rotor blades echoing off the land scape, a mantra of life in the shadow of death.
I carry the forgotten, the wounded, the betrayed. The one in the corner afraid to fight.
I carry the family not of blood but of design. The beat of the drummer chanting bring out your dead, bring out your dead, bring out your dead.
I carry secret hearts, of broken dreams. Widows weeping and children crying for loved ones who never return, weeping for those who came back changed.
I carry my rifle, my side arm, my chambered round, ready to engage an enemy, not realizing it was pointed at me,
The darkness of humanity, the evil inside, the silhouette-painted country, where fiery eyes pierce through the sky.
Bullets and bandages, to kill and to heal, anyone who crosses my path.
Hemmingway and Thoreau, verses I ascend with into the heavens, the raven never more.
Bruises, Scars, some of mangled form, others seared into the heart, a catalyst of rage
A knife on my hip, a sharpened tongue forged by man or god
Illustrated flesh to remember the fallen, to honor the sacrifice, a constant work in progress
Her photograph in my helmet, an altar to life, who I should be, who I once was, who I shall become
I carry with me an antiquated religion, who is righteous and who must atone, drawing a line in the sand beckoning us thou shall not kill, thou shall not kill, thou shall not kill,
I carry with me the sins of my father and grandfather, their own wars waged inside of them.
I carry with me the emptiness of a soul, left to rust in a foreign land.
I carry the weight of this life, the fighting, the defending. The providing of aid and comfort.
I carry with me, a name I have been given, Infidel, warrior, husband, father
Adam Stone is a 20-year Marine Corps veteran. He has served in multiple locations around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
by Thomas Carnes
She kneels there
Eyes crying behind the burqa veil
The widow knows the secret
But she won’t share or tell
She wants us to find out in our own time
The world is not a splash of sepia
Through a small thick bulletproof window pane
It is bright and big with the colors of death and pain
She knows, how well she knows
Every day, no matter how hot
She sits there, her children playing in the deserted desert dying lot
She holds out her hand to every passing caravan
Regardless of who or what
She wants to share her grief, to exchange her pain, to give out her secrets
But we have a secret of our own
One that we take with us, far away, eternal and home
We won’t share it with the widow
We would all just cry
We take our secret on with us
And pass her by.
Thomas Carnes is a medically retired Army captain. He has served in the Army Reserve, on active duty, and in the National Guard. As an enlisted soldier, he was a Blackhawk crew chief, doing time at Fort Polk, Korea and Fort Bragg. He has deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan as a military police officer. Currently he teaches criminal justice at James Madison High School in San Antonio, Texas.
by Eric Hawkins
horned owl on breathless field
feathers charred on twisted wings
eyes reflect shattered horizon
white-tailed doe under fallen oak
branch impaled through cervix
eyes reflect shattered fawn
man prone fractured on stone
torso smothered smoked splayed
eyes reflect shattered dream
vultures swirl on acrid waves as
mortality seeps from natures breast
Eric Hawkins is a disabled veteran. He served ten years as an infantryman/Bradley gunner from 1985 to 1996. He is currently a student at Austin Peay State University and is seeking a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.
by Joseph Couillard
I can smell the salty, sea air from the bottom of the trunk.
I let it fill my lungs, breathing life back into my oxygen-deprived muscles.
I look up.
The ladder-well is like a telescope, magnifying the holy blue sky above.
I begin my climb.
With each rung I shed a layer.
I reach the top nearly weightless.
I rub my eyes, coaxing them awake.
The waves fall gently against the side of the boat.
The sun has already baked the deck dry.
I stagger before I find the horizon to steady myself.
I sit down on the tough, textured deck.
It digs deep into my skin, but I don’t mind.
Someone is playing classic rock over an amplifier.
The cooks are flipping burgers on a charcoal grill.
Almost everyone is smoking.
The captain looks down from the bridge like a proud father.
I look to the east, knowing that is where home is, but for the first time in a while it doesn’t seem to matter.
I look around.
They are singing, laughing, dancing; all the things that just minutes before had been surrendered to the shadows of the boat.
Sitting there, with the sun setting all around us, we talk of love and of family and of how at that moment we would pay just about anything for a six-pack.
I take a deep breath and let it all wash over me.
For a second it almost makes it all worth it.
LTJG Joseph Couillard is a Submarine Officer stationed in Bangor, Washington. He earned his commission through the NROTC program at Iowa State University in 2013. In his free time he enjoys writing, reading, playing basketball, and spending time with his girlfriend.
by Joshua Callaway
I step foot back on home soil, every bit as foreign as the place I just left.
We spot each other simultaneously.
I smile, and she smiles back.
My heart pounds in a mix of fear and anticipation, like being in a firefight.
We embrace awkwardly, both of our bodies tense.
I feel her tremble as I place my hot mouth of her soft lips.
She doesn’t know me, not anymore.
We wait by the carousel in awkward silence hand in hand.
She wants to let go, wants to wipe her hand clean on her skin tight jeans.
I want this too, but we hang on, because that’s what is expected.
The hotel is a five minute drive from the airport, but it seems much closer and we arive much too soon.
She has already checked in so we go straight to our room.
We make small talk as we strip back to back, shying away from each other’s glances.
We look each other up and down for the first time.
I smile, and she smiles back.
We kiss once more, deeper this time, searching for familiarity.
On the bed in a tangled mess of flesh we find each other again.
I tell her I love her.
She says she loves me too.
Joshua Callaway is a medically retired army veteran who served more than fourteen years as an airborne infantryman. He fought in both Afghanistan (03-04 & 11-12) and Iraq (07-08). He is a father of three boys and currently attends Grossmont College, where he is pursuing an MFA in creative writing.
by Dane Bowker
The bullets snap
And barrels pop
While the earth beneath me ripples
I realize then that I’m alive
And love my brothers by my side
In this land
Of desert sand
I’ve done the things that make a man
Pushed away the fears that haunt
Those things that most will not confront
To a world unknown
I feel that life has passed me by
A host of faces but knowing few
They care not for me and thus withdrew
Up I get
And don my shoes
To work I go where nothing’s new
Boredom pines for days long past
Where bullets whispered amongst the grass
And dull of eye
I reflect upon a dreary life
Fixing dinner I slip and slash
My upturned wrist above the trash
The streets are quiet
The earth is still
So much yet left unfulfilled
Collapsing fast as I lie down
I realize then I’ll die alone
Dane Bowker was one of the first members of the Afghanistan – Pakistan Hands Program, serving in Kandahar from 2010 to 2011 and Ghazni from 2013 to 2014. He was one of the only Department of Defense civilians operating at the village level in Village Stability Operations and worked closely with Afghan Local Police and the Afghan National Army. He currently resides in the National Capital Region and is looking for his next big adventure.