Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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The Burn Pit Detail at FOB Cobra

We stand in the Humvee’s steel bed
and heave bags of trash
with both hands
to the wide crater below.

             We throw piles of opened
             boxes sent from our mothers,
             the USO. We push out
             the bent, rotting lumber

             left too long
             in the sun. We toss the torn
             tires of Humvees, the sandbags
             that split in half—we burn

everything, and we stand
beside the blue smoke
of our war’s leftovers. After
the bed’s empty,

we light cigarettes,
watch outside the wire:
three hundred meters out,
past the four rolls of concertina wire

             in a wide field of desert,
             two of the stray dogs fight.
             They jump to their hinds,
             mouths wide

             for each other, but between the flashes
             of burn pit smoke, they seem to be
             in a dance, a moment
             before a kiss, though just when their lips

             could meet, the pit glows, the smoke
             thickens—we can only see
             their long shadows collide, fall.
             At dawn, we’ll send a detail

to gather the dog who lost.
With snow shovels, they’ll scoop
the body into a double plastic bag.
To keep the dog

from becoming a bomb,
like everything,
they’ll dump it to the flame
and ash of the pit.    

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