Tip of the Spear

The tip of the spear
I was, we were
Our lungs an expanding balloon in endless inhale
Driving into Middle Eastern sands, an unknown land
With metallic dust of bombshells
And charbroiled, oil-smoke clouds
The war on terror
Hanging on our horizon

We breathed it in, toxicity
In pants and gasps and cries
As the dust settled deep in our souls
Particulates seemingly too small to matter
But oh! Picking one forbidden fruit
Can banish you from your heaven
That is the knowledge
That your naked being
Is good

I left the desert, a 6000 mile exhale
Of angry adrenaline smoke
Putrid stench of souls wasting away
In fear, in death
An unblinking gaze
Screening rock-heart denial

Undetectable mist
Sand grains like powered sugar
Stowaways in my cargo pockets
Under fingernails, along my scalp
No bathing ritual could rid me of its residue

It became a fixture on my mental landscape
Like the thin-air peak of Mount Damavand
Reflecting in the Caspian Sea
An image that is not the water
Yet the water cannot deny the mountain
To lay across its surface with each sunrise
Imposing its powerful foreboding beauty

Breathing became possible
By psychiatric oxygen cocktails
That turned vivid memory scars into
Lines in a history book, borrowed from a shelf
Held by the reader in two palms and ten fingers
That do not recognize they penned that past

Feet that do not fall asleep
But leap off the cliff into unconsciousness
For hours in darkness
The mind does not agonize
Or ponder, for that matter
Or count stars or sheep or blessings

It is turned off, practically dead
A temporary suicide
White noise, no information
Not even to convey timely breaths
And a steady heartbeat
No! I am not present to experience peace
Only un-medicated war

When the potency of pale blue and white wane
I rattle my bottles in search of more survival
Like a game of hopscotch
Along a razor-thin rim of an erupting volcano
Dangerously close to melting
Back into the earth that made me

As I bury the sharp memories
Of days, not too long ago days
When donned in rifle, ruck and camo
I kept watch

There are times I unearth them
A grave robber of my past
To examine what remains
What matters
What, if any, of it
Was holy

These words
Are the teeth and jaw bone
That identify me
I offer it to you
Will you place it under your tongue?
And say a prayer
For peace

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