I fell asleep to the thump of the Blackhawk’s rotors.
And I put my vest under my balls,
And I say my little prayer, every time my little prayer, ever time the same prayer,
Lord, if I owe you a pound of flesh,
Take my left foot and my left hand,
Not my balls—not my dick,
I want to have a kid,
I need to have a kid,
And don’t burn up my face,
I need a woman,
To have a kid,
Take the left side,
They are yours,
I accept the trade.
The door gunner’s outgoing shots wake me.
I slept through the incoming.
The sliding door is open and the dry wind is hot and the world is black and how is this not a movie?
How is this real life?
I’m from a fucking suburb.
The door gunner returns fire, the outgoing tracers are red.
The incoming tracers are green.
I kept my balls,
And I have a daughter.
He lost his left foot,
The clutch foot,
He spent all the juicy war-money on a 2006 manual transmission Dodge Viper.
The Viper was red,
We called him a douchebag.
I lost nothing,
We were Basic Training company commanders, together,
Eager to leave the schoolhouse,
The training purgatory,
Get to the line,
Lead an infantry platoons, playact Patton.
Into the shit.
“You want lunch? I’ll hit up the Colonel first,”
I ate salami on white bread and took third Platoon.
He took first.
He lost his clutch foot.
I lost nothing.
I Miss My Couch
They locked the disabled kid in the barn,
But it is wasn’t a true barn,
More a mud-brick outbuilding,
That is how they do it,
I shouldn’t hold them to my western ideals,
Is one culture really better?
They are simple farmers, living in mudbrick,
But what the fuck?
He’s their kid,
I have no idea what right answer is,
The entire fucking thing makes no sense.
Why am I searching a farm outside Baghdad for weapons?
I don’t give a shit.
No one cares, it’s their country.
It is all so pointless.
I want to go home.
I miss my couch and this is all pointless and I don’t care.
Am I a mercenary?
Developed in 1952 for American Troops
.308 sounds different than,
9-millimeter a fairy’s sneeze—metric and European,
.308 a Grizzly’s roar.
The main battle rifle, the All-American caliber. Heavy metal.
American exceptionalism in steel and wood and oil and brass and smokeless powder and efficient killing.
The 240 I humped in Iraq,
The sniper that gave me sanctified overwatch and murder on demand,
Another night, another continent, another bad guy,
But .308 still holds me.
How many forests, how many dusks, how much terror?
Praying I don’t catch one.
I try to forget, but the stress takes a piece,
Fuck that guy, pointing my caliber at me.
It is mine.
It is so dark, and smells like pine, and why didn’t the agency buy me night vision?
My kingdom for night vision.
Am I not worth the price of night vision?
The asshole shot a patrolman, with the consecrated .308,
I hope I don’t catch one,
But, I know I’m due.
I know I’m due.
When it is time to go, I want to die in a pile of spent and smoking and blister-hot brass,
Chasing a bad guy,
With my eyes open and bright and to the face,
Gazing at the .308.
J.B. Stevens has published fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and reviews. He was a finalist for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award for best crime novel, nominated for the Pushcart Award for poetry, and won Mystery Tribune’s inaugural micro-fiction contest.
He lives in the Deep South with his wife, daughter, and Yorkshire terrier. J.B. earned a Bachelor’s degree from The Citadel and a Master’s degree from Troy State University. He is a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and undefeated in Mixed Martial Arts competition.