Memories of a Future Conflict
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
— Mike Tyson
In the photograph, two teens — younger than I was
when I first heard the words ‘Just follow the rules
and nothing bad will happen’ – are standing
in a high school corridor. First thing I notice that brings
me back is – every light in the ceiling is on,
the sun outside windows is shining.
And the two young men, dressed, standing
tall in the foreground. Yet, the hallway remains
covered in shadows that are drinking the light.
* * *
A peace officer has given another talk –
‘Just follow the rules’ – while speaking
to a sea of heads looking down.
He’s memorized the story where students
rush the shooter, catch him off guard
and ‘nothing bad will happen.’ He tells
a tale of an employee who handles a gun
with confidence; he tells a tale of teens
who maintain their poise when the rifle?
turns the corner and looks their way.
The officer has given this briefing many times.
* * *
It’s thirty years in the past and I’m walking
an overgrown trail in a single file of recruits.
Not one of us know what this school full
of teens knows. A simulator breaks the silence.
Ratatatat! We dive into the brush; knees hit
rocks; helmets tilt sideways; some of us laugh.
Because they’re blanks, we jump up and run
to the sound of the shots; we burst through
the undergrowth in the clearing where
the boots of our drill sergeant wait.
He’s stone-faced, shaking his head, maintaining
the act. Says ‘take a knee’ and proceeds
to tell us this will be real one day. It will be
no laughing matter.
We walk to our barracks;
we are wiser having trained in life and death.
* * *
Years later I’m writing my obituary in the red-
lit bay of a C17 that is descending toward Baghdad
whose dark streets are drinking the electric light.
Whatever happens, my family will get the thanks
of a grateful nation and a cool quarter mil.
The boy on that plane doesn’t know he will
bring that on-the-job training home.
through my tour and complacent, I’m jogging
too close to the wire and I see dust fly
from the barrier wall a half-second before
I hear the shot. I dive in the gravel, knees
hitting rocks. I look past my shoulder and see
nothing in the desert, count to ten and begin doing
what passes for a sprint, laughing nervously.
* * *
In places like this, rank and age no longer matter.
An eighteen year old who’s lived this long
can teach any lieutenant who’s willing to listen.
* * *
I know the look – the two teens are giving –
in this picture; it’s a knowing that no briefing,
no drawn out plan can teach; it’s a knowing
the authors of a plan don’t have when a child
is the first line of defense; and mostly it’s
a knowing of the nothing bad
that despite our best plans
still manages to happen.
Myth of Innocence
Something’s tapping from the inside out. An agitation in the sky.
In a laundry room in the center of our block, a machine is slightly
off balance; the feet of the washer steps out slowly from the wall.
In it the blood frees itself from cloth. No one out tonight; people have
left clothes and machines, visibly agitated, to clean their mess.
On the television in the corner another man has been shot
by the authorities, for the crime of running. No one can say what
charge made the cops give chase. The story flashes again across
the screen; atrocity happens whether anyone dares to watch.
No one out tonight. Though their evidence is everywhere; a sock hangs
from the dryer door like a tongue, limp, exhausted. And blood pulses
through the water, separated from a man’s shirt, attaching to every
nearby article. No innocents in times like these, all of us coming out stained.
From this vantage point every light, a truck ascending
from the bottom of the hill, an uncovered cigarette
half a mile away, is visible cutting through the black.
Streetlights mark the edge of the known road;
traffic reduced to a river of red brake lights.
You, even at your journey’s end, feel yourself
still moving, fifty pounds lighter without the gear,
an empty ruck limp against the porch, armored
vest lifeless in a dark closet. Blood begins to flow
back into your arms where the nylon straps cut.
Everything worth living will take time.
For now, this house in the Hill Country allows
you to see each avenue of approach, flickering
blue flames of television screens creeping
out from silent windows below.
There’s a comfort in illuminating everything;
still, you can’t help notice it makes the dark darker.
And when you look up. Feint bodies of stars.
From the base of the watchtower in Balad, you once
marveled, ‘how many?’ while listening for the sound
of a foot shuffling on gravel, a round sliding
into a chamber, a treasonous cough. And how many
shades of darkness in this sky.
Your world back then
reduced to eighty soldiers, from places far away as
Ghana, Puerto Rico, Korea, a town in Nebraska
not even on maps – each of you watches, silent.
Your eyes in Iraq became planetarium projectors
making patterns in the sky, and each of you
knew the next screaming whistle might
be the end of beauty.
Maybe if you can explain
this to the lady you remember from the cash
register, the one wearing a ‘love it or leave it’
flag pin while saying ‘thank you for your service.
Maybe if you can say who it is she’s serving.
This is the noise that occupies your silence.
You’re alone again. The residents on this street locked
inside their safety, light so bright you can see
blades of grass on the front lawn while the black
edges of the bricks . . .
Everyone’s making enemies
of the people who might save them yet, huddling
beneath still burning torches that illuminate
what scares them — while blocking out the stars.
D.A. Gray is the author of Overwatch (Grey Sparrow Press, 2011)and Contested Terrain (FutureCycle, 2017). His poems have appearedin The Sewanee Review, Appalachian Heritage, Grey Sparrow Journal,Rattle: Poets Respond, Comstock Review, Wrath-Bearing Tree and O-Dark-Thirty among others. He holds Masters Degrees from The Sewanee School of Letters and Texas A&M-Central Texas and has run workshops for veterans groups, for prisoners,and for the surrounding community. The poet now teaches, writes, and lives in Central Texas.
MEET THE TIME OF THE POET REPUBLIC EDITOR
Freedom of Speech Fellow to PEN- Zentrum Deutschland,Germany. Alumni of the International Human Rights Arts Festival in New-York, USA.Literary Arts Activism Diplomatie. Globaly Certified Arts Mediums Curator and Influencer. Internationally Published Page and Spoken Word Poet. Writer in Residence. Arts for Human Rights Catalyst. Core Team Member of the Bezine Arts and Humanities Project. His illustrious poetry , hybrid writings , political commentary ,short fiction , book reviews and Arts Features are published in more than 400 spaces notably the Monk Arts and Soul in Magazine in United Kingdom. Atunis Poetry.com in Belgium. Demer press poetry series in Netherlands. World Poetry Almanac in Mongolia.Poesia journal inSlovenia. Bezine Arts and Humanities Webzine in USA. The Poet a Day in Brooklyn ,USA. Litnet Writers Journal in South Africa. African Crayons in Nigeria. Poetry Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Pulp-pit USA.the FictionalCafe international Journal , Texas USA. Best New African Poetry series in Zimbabwe, Zimbolicious Poetry Collections in Zimbabwe. Co-edited Street Voices International Publications with Andreas Weiland in Germany.Co-Edited Silent Voices Anthology, a Tribute to Chinua Achebe. Co-Edited the Corpses of Unity,solidarity collection to victimzed Cameroonians with Nsah Mala. Curated and Edited the Zimbabwe We Want Poetry ,Inside Digraceland speaking poetic truth to the Mugabe regime and other bad regimes. He owns the Time of the Poet blog zine ,MIOMBOPUBLISHING that published the #GlobalCallforPeaceProject titled the Second of EARTH is Peace.A LETTER to the PRESIDENT his experimental resistance poetry collection was released in August 2019 by Mwanaka and Media Publishing.. Co- Authored Whispering Woes of Ganges and Zambezi with Sweta Vikram in India. Good Morning President his first poetry collection was published in 2011 by Zimbabwean published based in United Kingdom, Diaspora Publishers.COVID 19 Satansdeadly fart is forthcoming. Chirasha is Founder and the Chief Editor of Brave Voices Poetry Journal, https://bravevoicespress.home.blog/
TIME OF THE POET REPUBLIC-An Internet-based Writers’ Center, archiving theme-based Digital Poetry Anthologies and publishing Iconic Poets, Writers and Artists from around the globe. TIME OF POET REPUBLIC was founded by UNESCO-RILA Affliate ARTIST, Freedom of Speech Fellow PEN-Zentrum Deutschland, 2019 African Fellow ihraf.org and acclaimed Literary Arts Diplomat, Mbizo CHIRASHA.