Bone-weary eyes scanned the soil and sky for the corner flash
of tracer rounds, night in, night out. The rotor’s muffled hum
betrayed a darkened metal blended against the black,
or, overhead the searchlights’ crescent sweep.
Smitty scanned while Cote fought sleep in the firing port
and the Blackhawk flew past chain link fence and razor wire,
like any night, before desert air raised its fearful
blanket of dust, spinning sand, blotting out the stars.
Darkness overtook machine, reduced its inner flesh
to a scent of burning oil, a motor seize, and the hot breath
of a black tail spinning, over face-down soldiers
who crouched and waited for the blade to strike.
Seconds stretched to seeming hours before the bird sideways
sent the first blade snapping against the desert floor
with fist-like echoes. Only the crew, voices swallowed by chindi
in the spinning, word pulled from flesh.
Unspoken names remained muffled in an eddy of debris. The dust devil
hands turned backward snapping each life taut.
As the sun rose, a Kevlar helmet lay upright in breaking light
half a mile from the wreckage, a ghost bead loosed
from its string and, without ceremony,
returned to earth.
Author: D. A. Gray
D.A. Gray, now living in Texas, retired from the U.S. Army in 2012, having served as a Master Sergeant. He served under 1st Medical Brigade in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008-2009. Gray has published one book of poetry, Overwatch (Grey Sparrow Press). His work can also be found in several journals, including O’Dark Thirty, Kentucky Review and (forthcoming) The Sewanee Review and War, Literature and the Arts.