• Road to War

    Blown by one swift wind they march
    green and brown weighed down
    by dust. They tumble, starched,
    like deadened leaves, crumbling
    with each step, rusting
    in the heat of the desert sun.

    Their hands clench in unity, bursting
    pupils drown their misery or is it
    misery? The sun is warm.
    Left – left – left right left.
    See new things, visit exotic places.
    The bombs are going off.
    That wasn’t your car, was it?

    My eyes scan – kernels of sand
    green, brown, weighed down
    by blood. Each hue seeps into the land
    becoming one. Prickly bushes – light
    upon a drop of dew. Close to my side
    my wrist flicks back and forth
    stroke here, stroke there -
    sepia, amber, gold, pear.

    The woody scent of rafters,
    the arid air, the taste
    of paint upon the retinas
    of my emerald eyes.

    Each body around me, five
    of us. Their faces shine
    with the sweat of heroics.
    In each window I spy
    their exhilaration expanding.
    My heart is thrilled.

    Our pupils are expanding.
    We are blinded by the burning of the sun.
    Each brow is weighted down by dust.
    Each hand is white from clenching.
    My feet sting with all our trekking.
    Sharp rocks dig into our soles.
    The man next to me is twitching his wrists.
    No doubt his limbs are shaking from dehydration.

    A simple p***k, a pinch of pain, a smile and a grin.
    I slip the tube along the vein and glide the needle in.
    All is well. Her mother thanks the Mighty God.
    God didn’t fix her, I did. God is gone.

    The four around me are silent in their sweat.
    To talk would bring exhaustion.
    No doubt each of us is tired.
    I want to go home. This place is death.
    The air reeks of it. The blood stains the ground.
    The sand is in desperate need of bleach.

    Each breath comes in a gasp
    of surprise, deep and echoing. A well
    of thought drains back
    into the eyes. Each man beside me
    drinks his fill of the world.
    My hands itch in their clenched positions,
    desperate for pen and paper. Sunlight
    scalds like dragon fire and burns my cheekbones red.

    Silence is met by pencil’s scratching.
    Words dance across the surface of the page.
    The woody scent of pressed paper bleeds
    into the fire of candle light and ink.

    My fists tingle with the footsteps of fire
    fairies across my skin. So hot it’s cold.
    Before us five prances an experience
    like no other. We are the lucky ones.
    Beneath the views of the others I write.
    The sun is burning memories in my brain.

    The sun is high and I wonder whether the fish
    would skate beneath the surface to taste
    the mosquitoes, fresh from their birthing.
    A taste of the briefest freedom.
    The light would catch their scales, attract
    their aerial predators. I shift my
    gun so my helmet shades it. The tubal
    weight is not so different from my pole.

    The flesh is tender, pink. I rip it.
    I pierce it with the metal hook.
    Salt collects within my nostrils
    and stings with death.

    Together we huddle like a school and
    we wait for the sharks to find us.
    One man twitches like a fish pulled
    from the sea. One man mutters, a toad
    upon the lily. Another scratches at the pad,
    his pen the water bug across the surface;

    Each one is prey for the sniper’s hawk-eye.
    Their sights flicker towards the fifth
    man, whose form has stiffened
    in the sun. His finger hovers
    over the trigger of his ebon-
    barreled gun.

    Our commander tenses like a taut line.
    Our commander freezes in time.
    Our commander stills.
    Our commander stills as if posing.

    The commander falls down bleeding.
    The commander is dead before he hits Earth.

    The tactics technician sighs
    in relief. Finally the numbers
    are even.

    The wind has changed, leaves
    have scattered. Pellets rain
    down from the sky, tumbling chaos across
    them. Green and brown are weighed
    with lead and Paint the road to War with red.