by Matthew Oudbier

In Iraq, the Syrian Desert expands in all directions. An earthen ocean of rock and sand stretches in waves to meet a sky that blankets creation. In Iraq, US Marines expand in all directions, searching for enemy victims. We bleed into the Syrian Desert.

The violent sun looks hard down on me. I wipe the sweat that beads from the space between my helmet and my forehead with my palm, salt and dirt are congealed on my wrists, and my rifle is the weight of dying in my hands.

It is easy to kill the haji when his Kalashnikov is hanging down his back, and he is loading his Toyota Hilux with a dozen or so 155mm HME packed artillery shells. Just look him in the eye. Look through his eye. Into his brain. Into the birth of civilization. When nomads wandered the desert with their families looking for fertile ground. Look down your sights and 4x magnify his heart beating just as fast as your heart beats. Imagine him imagining you, burning. Imagine lying down and going to sleep for 12,000 years. Wake up when the Tigris and Euphrates are dry.

Once I observed a pale yellow scorpion crawling across the hot desert sand. In a land of coarse grit and burning ecru I looked down on my enemy. The scorpion passed untroubled—Leiurus quinquestriatus.