As a hedge against dying, our Commanding Officer issued everyone a red poker chip for good luck. I took two chips, as if the Eucharist and my C.O. a priest. We flew over the Nile and the temples of Luxor, finally crossing the Red Sea in a diamond formation. We were thirty minutes out from pickling our bombs when Anti-aircraft shells took out our right wing. Not even Moses could save us. And later, a Bedouin would find strewn across the desert: some boots, a medal, a map of Iraq, partially charred sketches of a flying fortress, a pocket watch stopped at 7:36 a.m., and two red poker chips.
Half the night up, spent as casings of brass, face it, we begin this way: there are no women, no satellite tv, no coca-cola, not even the sun, hidden as it is behind billowing black smoke. There is only an x on this map with an arrow pointing north to a line of scrimmage. This is simply a departure, demarcation of any sign of hope: caramel apples, wet grass, cotton candy, watermelons, laughter. We are year-worn, indrawn and compact. We are small, broken toys with maps and guns. I can remember my mother, I can’t imagine a father. I can’t write you because everything’s humming a new color, unfamiliar as childhood, a distant planet. I didn’t expect to escape. I had a blueprint, the life of a famous poet, picking cherries in June, fireworks over Penn’s Landing. Now I wake to the sleep of Lorca’s apples, walk through the meadow. This is just a place. These are just words flashing in the grass. To the north, there is the whine of distant jets and heavy bombardments. We must find a way between them.