A Fallujah Christmas


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A poem for this Memorial Day …

I wish I could be with you tonight
assembling Blake’s tricycle
or bolting up Jill’s swingset
while you wrap and fill the stockings.

It’s cold as hell tonight in
this godforsaken town, a full moon
mocks over the shattered mosque’s
skull, eyeing Christian and
Muslim souls alike with baleful calm,
rendering my rifle barrel (I’m on
patrol) a dull black blue.

I think of poinstettas on the porch;
the deep red core of every leaf
reminds me of how when I was a boy
I used to dream of Santa’s red bag

mashing down the chimney
on Christmas Eve, filled with
all the toys I wanted. The only
red you’ll find in Falljuah
is painted by broken bodies.

Everything else is dry and brown,
flattened by the armies of two gods,
a city of ruins and rude tents. Somehow
a population still calls this home,
going about the business of the day
not much different than we do in Sweetwater.

Except that the merchant who sold me
a bootleg Faith Hill CD yesterday
was probably the guy who used
a cellphone to remote the roadside
blast that lifted Angel’s Hummer
clear off the road a great orange flash,
dropping its black freight with
a whoomph that’s still ringing
in my ears along with Angel’s
mangled screams.

Just last night he showed me his
girlfriend’s beaver pics on
his laptop, treasure spreads that
kept our thoughts a while away
from the next day’s patrol.

I like to think he’s dancing his
ass back on up there on the moon’s bodega,
snapping his fingers as he whirls about
the stars, having a last good shout
before his body bag goes on ice
for the long wrong trek home.

The last bolt in the swingset tight,
presents all in place beneath the tree,
I watch us sit on the couch a while
in the living room, so bright with lights,
sipping rum-soaked nog as “White
Christmas” croons the radio.

Your eyes so blue even in the dark,
your red hair spilled over your shoulder,
your neck smelling of Obsession,
a scent that still reminds me of
the first night we made love
when you sighed I want your baby.

You’re wearing a red sweater
and your breasts swell lush in them,
still rich with the milk that nursed
our children. I close my eyes and join
them while “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”
plays on Armed Forces Radio
until the spank of small-arms fire
rakes in across the night,
followed by a mortar’s boom
three bunkers down.

Yeah, its Christmas in Fallujah
motherfucker, safety off
and rifle stock hammering
at my shoulder as the fiery
tracers race cross the night.

In minutes the whole thing’s
over; a corporal running by
says the chaplain was killed by
a mortar round and a PFC
who was walking with him
is in critical. The docs
will save his ass no doubt
but his head will keep exploding.

The cordite slowly clears
as the terror silences down
Baby, if you look up at the moon
please know I’m looking too.
Then pull the curtains tight
and get on to bed. This barrel
will sight past this icy yearning.
You keep the home fires burning.

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