by Larissa Douglass
I. A bomb at an embassy somewhere Reminds me of you At four a.m., driving to nowhere, Asphalt solitude. Your canceled dates, a missed interview Warn with this journey That you're letting go, and driving back No sleep, hour forty The invasion of Baghdad soundtrack Truck speakers pound back Ear-popping pressure, tank treads engage Metal grinds and time Rotates. Your exhausted brain upstaged, By radial climb So tired. Exhaust breathes, the motor whines Anti-aircraft hiss Takes you offramp, gas station beacon, For a machine gun piss On a decade's dreams, caffeine staking Your heart, reawakened. Cash out nightmares with Five-Hour Energy. Drink five a.m. relief From dawn's sweating, charred-skull memory. Suicidal grief Surrenders in dreamless, cortex relief To legal bottles Of amino acids, vitamins. Dilated pupils Glaze over dead friends in sandbagged fluorescence. When flashback presence Jump starts your sterile departure, When a drive to liberty Is better than shrinks, pills, bars, the ladder To responsibility - Your body goes, your mind stays in captivity. Five-Hour Energy Kills nightmares, takes you other places. Your dead family - "Like peons in a tragedy, who made bad choices." Did you escape this? The military freed you from bayou shame. Your dad taught you to fly Your mom taught you to drink hurricanes. Buzz cut runaway Your hair grew back, streaked shocks of grey. Your mom's never did. Before she passed, no care in this world Clouded the dashboard. Girlfriends soared to blowjob altitude, California prepared You for desert sweat, Mojave sky. Mindful government Trained you in Death Valley prophecy; Agent of judgment, Freedom's arm and live vengeful weapon. No mock madinah Waited beneath eastern desert's scrutiny Naïve Crusader Hypervigilant, frayed humanity, Your guts mortared nightly. Shipped you home, post-tour, Two worlds in secret sleep suspending, 'Til Baghdad horror Rammed through the roadblocks, through Prazosin, Hydrocodone double vision: Fentanyl homeland security, Ambien green zone, Chronic pain prescription poetry. Propranalol veteran Cranked on army stock, V. A. depression. No drug can replace Love realized, sex repressurized. But no love eliminates Panic of the possessed and terrorized. Faith cannot neutralize Puddled brains congealed in X-ray sun Boy's eye left open In rigid judgment, your companion On suburban return Grocery carts, lawn mower blade cuts crimson. Two worlds at six Grace God's absence and counsel silenced Murder sleeps in dreaming fists Naked nights of loneliness, taut defense, Survival, the unconfessed Guilt of your empty, camouflaged shell. Congratulated For your boxstore mojo, pretend normal. Nerves become separate Soft fibres hang, dangling delicate. You miss brothers dead. Through days of patchworked time flow. You don't know How you got here? - Did You drive here? How'd you get a front row Seat, back to Baghdad now, Baby? Draining Five-Hour Energy Protean chronic pain You're cavalry waiting for the cavalry. The clock dawns seven: Out of body you float, spectral sane. Suicide watch walls You're scared now you'll never get better Gun retorts bleed your soul, Change you within, change you forever. Doctors uncover The shaking, cold, ominous feeling Of life shutting down Explosions flashback, despair sinking Webs of death all round Five-Hour Energy - four bottles drawn. Escape overdrive Rev the engine, gas station oasis Fuels the will to live Signs recede in dawn's early darkness, Prove through night's promise That you are still here. Vacuums created, Must be filled. You won't risk it, So I will. Snowed your doctors, trial tested They released you sick, Before you met me, egg-shell optimistic. Showed me trust with your battleface - And rabid wolf pledges. New love was just another catalyst, A dream on the edges Of sweet arrows that love's young god fledges. You can't call our proximity vigil Post-combat romance. No love invests in bankrupt capital. Faint hope entranced us, But no lipstick melts on burning tanks. No Southern charm bluff Sees action in Operation Meltdown. Adoration lust, You're all survival readiness handsome, My last pregnant sanctum.
II. I wanted you to admit A love enough to submit To life without traumas. But hearts change like channels. Each day, world summits Play cameras for bullets. You asked me how I understand? I had a friend, brilliant, Not afraid of mangles In the engines and the gears. They called him embedded, They called him a prince. Now, I see where you're headed And I call on your fears. You remind me of him. Jump out planes on a whim, Leap off bridges, fearless, Deaf in the distance, Terror transmuted, to save an idea, Not of honour, or duty, or freedom. Nor money, nor vengeance. It's an exchange: life for courage. He died in Afghanistan, Roadside bomb carrion. And I knew when he died The world's hopes altered His big promise magnified Like that! He was gone. His father died in a year, Heartbreak loss could not heal. Tributes sang our sorrows, He bore death's golden laurels. We all had promise, sure, His path was higher, brighter, purer. His fate seemed unmistakable - He was irreplaceable. Someone who could turn ideas into facts Scribe of future social contracts. So much knowledge and potential; When he died, I saw the debt, the differential, The burden that the loss exacts. I loved you and found a voice For him. We have no choice - We who survive. We live in their place We run their race, As well as our own. We dream upside down, Where everything's wrong. Cross that line, never belong, Pieces no longer fit as planned. It does not matter: I understand This differential imperative. I reflect his light divergent. A fallen man's representative Honours what he could have been. Remember your men's example. Wear well their bloodied mantle. Know their missions had there been no war. Find that other, better world, They wait ahead, at higher elevations, They light our future in all its calculations. Your eight o'clock reminder Recalls you're still a soldier. Turn back on that road, That loops back to Baghdad, Where predetermined conditions Delivered detainee shocks, And broadcast tortured apparitions Of bravado's disgrace. Now look ahead: Your men greet dawn's visitor, The morning's stellar nightcomer. Piercing brightness fires the mountains The sun climbs the valley, the throat of the plains. Your men light your road, Stay with you at each relapse episode. Ghosted by sin in homeland's desert Make for the signal point of rebirth, On your night drive to a new life. Strike nine, I rise in firm belief I'll meet you at the city's gate To embrace the man who ends his struggle, Who invades that mined road way And arrives in a different capital.