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I’ve seen the Mojave, but I’ve never seen the desert.

In training, I swept for mines, but I’ve never seen

my brother’s leg destroyed after detonation;

I’ve seen the legless soldier walking with a prosthetic

across town, through the grocery store, at drill,

trying to hold on for one more year, for pension.

I’ve seen the different phases of training—crawl,

walk, run—and I’ve seen the failure of battalions

at each phase. I’ve cleared a path, myself,

and marked, with flags, the safe zone;

and I’ve walked through such a minefield.

I’ve witnessed the Volcano, a machine, scatter

960 antitank mines

over one kilometer of sand, but never have I

seen the battle, or the desert, or those mines, or TOC

calling a precision-bombing air strike across the line.

I’ve dismantled many mines, winnowed Russian mines

from French mines, but I’ve never seen the mines

on television; I’ve known soldiers who have seen

those mines; soldiers caught under fire, blasting cap

clenched in the mouth, jaw gone missing;

and that must be what it means to see the desert:

a face charred, blood dried and stuck to bone,

the land laid out before you erupting.

from BangaloreFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Kerry James Evans
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Published in Kerry James Evans Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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