Two War Poems by Hugh Martin


Found in Willow Springs 67

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Friday Night, FOB Cobra



Smith, shirtless, curls forty-pond dumbbells,

veins burst, worms over biceps.

The curls are part of his plan for home:

a sex life.



On burn detail, Ritchey stirs shit with a metal rod,

asks Carter--standing back with a smoke--Doesn't it make you




Jones' brother sent him a twelve-pack

of Ultra Sensitive LifeStyle condoms. The box reads:

almost like wearing nothing at all. He cuts it out,

tapes it to the front of his flak vest.



Sergent Thomson has been in so many fights,

there is no cartilage left in his nose.

In line for the phone, he shows us:

bending it like an ear with one finger,

flat against his cheek.



Kellerman's wife divorced him over e-mail.



When asked why his hands are so hairy,

Kenson says, with a cup of coffee and a ball of wet Copenhagen

bulging beneath his lip, I ain't a fuckin' girl.

He sips four pots a day, changes the grinds

once a week. The coffee tastes of steam and heat.



In Tower Ten, Stevens discusses mutual funds,

interest rates. He says a young guy like me

might spend all his money on a bike, a truck, a house.

He's taking his wife

for a cruise, investing the rest,

and that's what you do with money.



On marriage, Perry says, It ain't like that.


You think you just walk in the door,

and she hands you a beer,

gives you a blowjob.


It ain't like that, he says.


Just wait,

it ain't like that.



Ski boils water in a canteen cup,

adds ramen, slices of expired Slim Jims.

He discusses the meaty juices, how the heat

sucks them out.

This meal is sacred.



Sprinkling hot sauce over cold, boiled potatos

Demson talks about reading the paper, the names

of the dead.

All of us know he's slept with ninty-seven

women. After we finish our food, he tells us

about one.



Observation Post


Hanley spits strings of saliva-laced dip into cracks of gravel.

Hours ago, a dud dropped on the south side of the FOB,

sent up a breath of dust.


Marwan, the interpreter, drives to the entrance gate,

picks up his two boys. Their summer job: filling sandbags for dinars.

One mile down the road, at the intersection,

a three round burst, a precise

incision through the windshield. Neck, mouth, nose.


In a Humvee, we drive the captain and find the two boys

crouched together, hands over their head on the floor,

their father wet on their bodies.


Captian takes a photo, and we lean

toward the backseat window,  as he points to red scrapes of Marwan,

bedside the seatbelt buckle.

Later, he'll show everyone, magnifying the camera's screen,

That's skull right there, that's skull, as if needing others to agree.


We watch crow carry the body bag

through Sadiyah's streets.

Peshmerga arrived in jeeps with RPGs, Kalashnikovs;

they drag suspects to the police station,

where they'll take turns with the rifle-butting.


I'm cleaning my fingernails with a Gerber; Hanley whispers,

A shooting star. When I look, he says, Go fuck yourself. Before dawn,

we see movement in the retreating darkness. Through the binos: a donkey

mounts another in a field.


When our relief shows up, we say if they're bored,

there's two donkeys fucking at three o'clock;

a dud hit before midnight; and Marwan is dead.

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