The Rage of George
Rattling of Sabres
The Gods of War
In the Clouds
The Tyrant Flees
Out of Order
Doing the Patriot Act
The Little Prince
Ichor of the Gods
The Price of Peace
Dead or Alive
Across the Border
Summer in the City
Wolf and Jackal
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and The Idyossey?
Morning births a sunrise darkened by dust.
Despite the waning winds, fine particles float;
A thick reddish fog envelops all. The
Horizon disappears, blends into a sky suffused
With an eerie blood-red glow that makes gauging
Distance and direction nearly impossible.
Staff Sergeant Jack McClellan pries open his eyes,
Lids stuck together with a dry, crusty glue
Teardrops binding small particles of desert sand
Into salty cement, gritty and hard to remove.
Blindly, he grabs his half-full canteen, pours
It across his face. Eyes slowly break their bonds.
Blinking in the gloom, he scans the landscape.
His comrades melt into desert, bodies
Half submerged in sand, here a hand, there a foot,
Look lifeless, sleeping soundly from exhaustion,
Chests and backs move slowly with each breath.
Sand flies flit hurriedly amid the human dunes.
McClellan, Siever, Charles, Holcomb and Evert
The oldest 25, the youngest but 18,
Bonded in three weeks of battle and barrage,
Now clump together on the ground, huddled really,
By the base of a tent shredded by the savage wind -
More barrier than safe shelter.
McClellan, senior member of the squad
Is in charge of this boisterous band of boys.
Computer games are more their speed, not battle,
Their main sport instant messaging, downloading MP3’s.
Activated by the war, now called to serve
In war games by the Commander in Chief.
McClellan, Mac for short, sits up,
Shakes himself awake and rises off the ground.
Sand cascades down his uniform, now reddish brown,
Forms a small pile at his feet, covers his boots.
Desert ants scurry to reopen their entry holes
Filled this time not by wind but by Mac’s disturbance.
“Get up you dogs,” he yells,
Pushing his boot tip into each man's ribs,
Like a kindly uncle, not roughly but with affection.
One by one he makes sure each man’s awake.
“Shake the sand out of your ears,” he says,
“Saddam’s army is not sleeping, I assure you.”
Four young men emerge from the sand.
Like mummies rising from the dead,
Covered with dust, wrapped in gauze,
Limbs stiff from silent sleep, they slowly stand,
Legs shaky and unsteady from disuse and slumber,
Each man comes back to life to join the muster.
“Yo, Mac, wussup?” says Evert, hailing from Detroit.
“That’s 'wussup Sarge,'” says Mac, smiling but eyes tight.
“Mornin,” says Charles, youngest of the group,
Mac nods his head and kindly winks in his direction.
“Huh?” says Siever, “Huh…what’s goin’ on?
“It’s so quiet…I can’t hear anyone, can you?” he asks.
“Shut up,” Mac says softly, listening to silence.
Holcomb’s standing quietly by Mac’s side, spitting sand
“Where’s the platoon, Sarge?” he says. Mac
Puts his index finger to his lips and signals for quiet,
Takes off his helmet, cups his ears. Finally
He turns and tells them, “We’re alone.”
“Stow the gear, and let’s move out,” says Mac.
The others quickly stuff sacks and move to the tent.
“Just leave the fuckin’ tent, it’s trashed,” says Mac.
He pulls out a map, shredded and torn,
Just one week’s use in coarse sand
Has turned it brown and brittle.
“Get CentCom on the phone,” Mac barks, “plot position.”
Siever grabs the phone and finds it dead, sand
Falls from the mouthpiece like flour through a sieve.
He holds it to his ear, then shakes it,
A rattling sound and more sand falls from it.
“It’s dead, Mac,” Siever shakes his head, “No go.”
“Shit,” says Mac, “Ok, let’s plot our course and head out.”
Mac turns the map in his hands, but half is lost.
Torn by raging winds, the paper’s blown away
To the Persian Gulf, where it briefly floats
Before joining icons of wars fought long ago
Now settled on the sea’s dark sandy floor.
“We’ll head East,” he says, pointing to his right,
Where now a red orb glows. “Move out,”
He commands, the group moves towards the light.
Holcomb looks behind, his dirty face worried,
Remembers when his older brother ditched him at 12
For two cold winter days in the Pennsylvania woods.
“You sure, Sarge?” he asks, anxiety in his voice.
“Just follow orders, soldier,” Mac replies, not looking back.
So they walk, hours passing as the sun rises higher,
Stop from time to time for a drink, canteens near empty.
Temperatures rise as shedding useless gear,
They make way to an uncertain destination.
From the right they hear an engine. All
Stop and heads turn to discern the make,
Hoping that the company’s been found, that
They will be welcomed by their countrymen,
Provided food, and water to slake their thirst,
And news of others in this god-forsaken sand.
“Hit the deck,” Mac orders, they all comply and drop.
“Be on guard, no friendly fire. And shut up!”
The engine rumbles closer, 200 yards away.
A small vehicle with no top appears in the dust,
Figures sitting stiffly, no guns raised, no helmets,
Fabric flaps in the wind from four heads.
“They’re not our guys,” whispers Mac,
“Wait till they get closer, then rise up, shoot in the air,
Point your weapons at them and yell ‘Stop!’”.
Not a sound, not a whisper not a cough.
The vehicle pulls closer, laughter can be heard
Light banter between friends.
At 20 feet Mac and his men jump up and fire,
But for the sand the vehicle would have screeched.
Instead its front wheels bury themselves,
Two men riding in the back are thrown to the ground.
The other two in front have hands in the air,
Mouths bleed from impact with the dashboard.
Mac and his men now yell and gesture,
Direct the four to lie down and not move.
The vehicle’s a Jeep, American made, but old,
Falling apart, no insignias or markings.
The four men are scared, clearly surprised
To find Americans wandering in the sands.
“Civilians,” one of the four intones, “We are civilians.
Please don’t shoot, we do not fight, we are your friends.”
“Ann Arbor, Detroit…Detroit Bears…do not shoot,
I have been to America, I have eaten at MacDonalds!
Big Mac with fries and large coke,” and he smiles broadly,
No teeth in front but one capped gold on the left side.
“Ok, stand up,” Mac orders, and gestures to his boys
Who gather round the captives, amused
By talk about MacDonalds and Detroit Cubs.
One of the scarved men spins and grabs young Siever,
A steel blade’s point pushed hard near his carotid,
“Drop your weapons”, Gold-tooth hisses, “Or he dies.”
The other boys raise up their arms and aim,
“Let him go!” yells Charles, his hands atremble.
Siever’s pants go black with piss, his face is white.
“I will shoot your fucking head off!” Holcomb shouts.
Holding Siever from behind, Gold-tooth drags him backwards.
Mac knows he’s made a bad mistake, not fatal yet, but close.
The point of gold-tooth’s knife breaks
A rivulet of rich red blood trickles down his neck
And Gold-tooth looks at Mac and grins. His
Smile spreads wider as the point presses harder.
“Ok,” says Mac, “Drop your weapons guys,
Just do it, NOW,” he yells, the young men all comply.
Positions are reversed, Americans face down,
While ragged robed and bearded men
Gather up the M-16s and disarm the squad,
Packs and belts, boots and helmets removed,
Hands tied with coarse rope pulled from the jeep,
Americans now captives of Saddam’s fierce Fedayeen.