The Advance - Poem by Tom Sleigh
Out the barred window sandbags
in a sagging wall surround the guard post
where a soldier half-hidden by the flag
holds his rifle on his knees and looks a little lost.
It's Sunday and quiet, the traffic noise
off aways, the sea behind the post flat as the tarps
pulled tight over the troop trucks.
Somewhere down the hall soldiers are being boys,
telling some joke in Arabic
in which I'm pretty sure I hear the word "zubrak":
I walk between shelves loaded with canned rations,
the cool expiring slowly in the high-ceilinged room
while a pinned-up PSYOPS leaflet declares,
If you sleep in a cemetery, you're bound to have nightmares.
No one sees the doll's decapitated head small
and neat in rubble. Never tired or sleepy,
the head is its own country
obstinately surviving, the pupil
of its one eye peering through the glass's pure
transparency. And a few feet away lie its slim, plastic,
long-legged thighs almost like
an obscenity the eye watches over —
no one in the street, nothing but bolt-marks
from tank-treads scarring the concrete
to give any of it drama — and what
about the way the lips' frozen smirk
keeps daring me to touch the sexless V
between the thighs staring up at me?
The barracks dissolve into a reef of rubble in the fog.
On either side of the road, crater after crater
flashes with glints of glass, plastic bags,
a chair leg clinging to a dismembered chair.
The TV station, the power stacks
thrusting up through mist, the black-bearded posters
and banners strung across
the streets lead to an absolute nowhere:
all that's left in the emptied town
after the army pulled out are PSYOPS leaflets
fluttering up around the car that winds
down the coast road deeper into mist, headlights
probing like instruments in a wound
they illuminate the more they violate.
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