& the War Was in Its Infancy Then

For Greg Pardlo

I learned early. By the time I looked
over my shoulder, the sun had already fallen
flat desert, the tree of life? Or is that just black smoke rising?
    My birthday
was yesterday. Yesterday I watched black smoke rising
from artillery strikes against insurgents. Dust
floats chest high, I breathe in. Boots kick up dust
quickstepping. My rifle is slung cross body;
it’s safe here but I tap the rifle’s magazine;
tapping it reminds me how to keep safe.

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