in Afghanistan - 3 poems
Colin D. Halloran
The Moon's Still Up
When we first set out – it seems like days now,
though surely it's only hours – the moon hung heavy in the sky,
an insistent luminescence in green
while, through night vision, we picked our way
precisely through the desert night.
Now, as we stop before entering the pass ahead,
(a perfect place for ambush with its single narrow road,
high sloping walls, one way in and out)
the moon still hangs, resisting the desert sun's dominance.
I can't help but wonder why it's lingering,
what it's waiting to see – there's nothing
but a road that's barely discernible from the desert around it,
expanse interrupted violently by sharp mountains ahead of me,
and those behind, which somehow remind me of Scotland,
uneven, shadowed green trying to force its way out –
what in the landscape warrants staying in the sky today?
The seven trucks do their best to blend in,
men posed alert next to them, eyes begging
the mountains to reveal their secrets,
beads of sweat sneaking onto trigger fingers,
wondering what the moon is waiting to watch unfold.
The soft expanse of Afghanistan’s sky,
balloon announcing a baby boy,
stretches across – or out from – the spot
where a civilian car would sport an ornament –
a goddess, wildcat, surly mountain-dwelling creature –
but where I have only slightly beveled, sand-toned steel:
a sliver of tan, then blue. Nothing else in sight.
The 32.1 lbs of my vest and helmet, with an assist from gravity,
insists that I sit as far back in my seat as possible.
I was always mixed on roller coasters.
Loved the anticipation, the rush, the feel of leaving a part of me
237 ft. above and behind me.
Not the biggest fan of the feeling of the padded roll bar –
would it quite contain my scrawny frame? –
I hope this Humvee does as I force it to climb,
Doc Brown’s words echoing in my head.
My gunner shouts down to me about obstacles to my front,
the Sgt. next to me lets me know just how close I am
to teetering – if such a heavy vehicle can teeter – over
the edge of the drop off to my right – only a few hundred meters to the bottom –
while to my left I stare nearly straight down at sand, rock, obstinate tufts of grass
that lead only slightly more gently to a different bottom.
My knuckles seem tensed to pounce on some unseen prey,
knowing the lives of these two men – art school, the girl he wants to marry for my gunner,
the Sergeant’s wife, kids, new house he bought on leave–
rest entirely in my hands’ ability
to keep the wheel at just the right degree while driving blind.
I Want to Paint the Sunrise
But I've never been skilled with brush.
I want to paint the softness of this sunrise I'm seeing.
If for no other reason than it seems surreal. Or too real.
To have canvas on easel
Palette and brush
and in strokes panoramic like the hills
that hide the mountains
the sun sneaks out of,
capture this moment in visual aubade
knowing I've made it through another night alone – alive –
watching, listening, waiting for the landscape to reappear,
knowing there's only a couple more such nights ahead of me,
hoping I make it through those – alive – and home.
To turn this wooden platform
from east tower to studio.
To have canvas on easel
palette and brush
barb wire frame
I want to paint the sunrise.
words and images: Colin D. Halloran (Mason's Road / facebook)
all images actually consist of 2 images -
the second image appears when scrolling over the photos.