Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

The First Engagement

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

The First Engagement

Article excerpt

-March 18, 2004

You run with the others over gravel, looking up

at the dirt-berm wall that surrounds your home, FOB Cobra,

and you climb to the edge that ends against sky.

You push with boots, claw the loose dirt with one hand,

hold the rifle in the other as the terse pops

of warning shots go silent. At berm's edge,

beneath the crooked Kevlar cover, you peek to see

the hundreds of meters of mortar-beaten

land and then why you're there: a white truck moves

down the broken asphalt road, orange sparks,

hundreds, splash from its tailgate - a vehicle-born

IED. It could be headed to the village, just north;

it could be headed for the main gate.

Inside the truck, the driver can't see

or does not see or doesn't care to see:

you, the dozens of rifles, the Bradley's black

cannon aimed to the windshield, the hood,

his own head, his passenger's head.

You steady your rifle

atop the berm, and first, the Bradley fires,

its orange tracers, almost gentle, weightless

as they fly to meet the trucks grill; the platoon follows:

down the line, they fire together. You aim. Your first shot.

But the truck slows. …

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