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?
Army sits in occupation,
Controls Iraqi streets by day,
But summer really rules. July
A sizzling 130 degrees, tar melts
In the streets, trees lose their few leaves
And bodies wither from brutal heat.
The prisoners in stockade 4-B sit motionless,
Silent, too weak to speak;
The only sounds are labored breathing
Occasional coughs and muttered prayer.
The relative coolness of the concrete walls
Provide the only hope of minimal relief.
Dressed in numbered jumpsuits,
Each man is allocated four feet square,
Marked with chalk upon the walls.
No bars separate them, yet each stays
Carefully within his zone. Two
Americans stand armed guard.
Most of those detained come from Fallujah,
Hotbed of anti-American opinion. As
Is the case in much of western Iraq,
Fallujah sports a nascent guerrilla uprising;
Almost one U.S. soldier is killed each day,
Picked off by sniper fire or planted bombs.
The new U.S. regional commander,
General Abizaid, acknowledges that
Iraqis are newly engaged, fighting
Guerilla-style war against the occupying force.
Rather than gaining ever more control,
U.S. forces hunker down.
Within the confines of Stockade 4-B,
Gold Tooth lies against the wall.
Back on concrete, knees drawn up
He rests his head upon his gathered hands.
With measured breath he makes plans:
Kill the guards and make his swift escape.
Desert fighter, Fedayee, Baath loyalist,
Gold tooth adds his list of victims:
Enemies of Saddam, Breaker of Men,
U.S. soldiers lost on patrol, now occupying forces,
All will fall at his swift hands. Prison, he reasons,
Provides a chance to kill again.
Stockade 4-B is in fact, a warehouse.
Used before invasion to store textiles,
Its lack of windows makes it a perfect prison.
Built of concrete, ceiling 24 feet high,
It’s clear-span, tilt-up construction is made to order.
Prisoners line both 80-foot side walls.
Steel roll-up doors are at each end, open
For ventilation. Barbed wire, cyclone fencing
And locked steel chains prevent escape.
One doorway leads to outdoor space,
Where fence and barbed wire enclose a dusty yard.
Each prisoner can use it one-half hour daily.
Today the yard is guarded by Bryant Stone, PFC.
A blue-eyed, towheaded kid from Tuscaloosa, Tennessee,
He joined the Army to escape his father’s wrath,
An alcoholic rage that strikes at night,
Leaves his mother terrified with terror,
And scares his baby sister into tears.
His mother fears his death if he remains;
Bryant knows he won’t see this home again,
And that he’ll feel his mother’s gentle
Kiss upon his cheek no more.
His father not yet home from work,
He leaves his boyhood home for good,
Now he sits outside Baghdad in sweltering heat.
It hits him like a tight hand around his throat;
Still, it’s preferable to the sharp blows
At the hands of his drunken father.
Legs sweating in a wooden chair, he
Shifts weight from cheek to cheek.
Gold Tooth rises from the floor,
Beckoned by Bryant for outdoor exercise.
The heat begins to wane as the sun sets;
High clouds turn vivid pink in the rosy twilight,
A light breeze blows with sweet coolness.
Gold Tooth leads the way.
“Yo, Bryant, how’s it goin’ man?” asks Gold Tooth,
“It’s hot, I’m wasted and wanna go home,”
Bryant sounds tired. “You and me both,”
Gold Tooth responds, “Hear from your Mom?”
Gold Tooth perceives the loneliness of Bryant,
And plays upon his sadness.
“No, no letter this week, maybe next.”
Bryant’s letters from home increase his worry,
With him gone his father has new targets.
He’s afraid his mother will be beaten. Unknown
To him, it has already happened, his mother
Cowers while savage blows are struck.
For weeks Gold Tooth has played
With Bryant’s heart; today, he’ll execute
His plan. He’s walked the cyclone fencing,
Knows all the gaps and high spots. There’s
A section he can wriggle through, and
He’s lost weight with that intention.
Darkness deepens as the sun dips lower,
Day’s last rays strike the upper tips of palms,
Make dappled points like ripe golden dates.
Bryant seems distracted, and inattentive,
Security lights off, the perfect moment arrives.
Gold Tooth implements his plan of action.
“Can I sit down?’ he asks Bryant, “Join me.”
Bryant looks from side to side, sees no one.
He squats down, pleased at the attention.
Gold Tooth leans against the cyclone fence,
Hands behind him, he loosens the dirt,
The gap beneath the steel strand grows.
He brings his hands forward, “Let me
Read your palms,” he says to Bryant.
“You read palms?” asks the boy from Tennessee.
“Indeed I do, quite well,” Gold Tooth says smoothly.
“I can tell your future, when you are going home.”
Bryant hesitates, then offers his upturned hands.
“OK…let’s see,” Gold Tooth sounds assured,
“Now this line, this is your heart line, very strong.
I see you can love deeply with great loyalty.”
He holds Bryant’s right hand in his left,
Points to the lines with his own right hand.
He pulls the soldier’s arm closer.
“Now this line, this is your life line,
This line shows the length of life. It’s dark,
Come closer so I can see it better.”
Bryant is fascinated, curious and too comfortable,
He’s all but forgotten he’s a soldier,
The man before him is a killer.
“That’s better, I see it, this diagonal line,
It cuts across your life line, right here, look.”
Bryant bends forward, to see the lines.
“What’s it mean?” he asks concerned.
“It means your life will be cut short,” Gold Tooth whispers.
Even when your end will come.”
Gold Tooth pulls him forward. “It’s now.”
He spins Bryant, holds him close,
Loops his left arm round the neck and
Squeezes hard, crushing Bryant’s throat.
He holds him till his body quiets, then, still
Hugging him, gently plants a kiss upon his cheek.