13 Stares – Alabama

This might be my favorite from among the litter of these poems, or — at least — the one I think about most.

Whenever I search for an analogy for what war in Iraq was largely like, I often bring up this comparison:  imagine Russia invading the deep south of the US.  There’d be a lot of resistance on the local level.  In fact, it’s not hard to imagine our redneck youth taking potshots with their ‘possum rifles from behind the local filling station.  That’s what I noticed in far southern Iraq.  Not so much armed resistance but a lot of street crime and a lot of kids throwing rocks, clods of dirt, that sort of thing.  So, our NQR moment here goes out to Alabama.

Wave on, Dixie, wave on.

One of our interpreters, "Willy" (Wael), playing soccer with local boys in Safwan. Note destroyed tank in background.

Alabama

If they ever invade
or say perhaps
like Caesar across the Rubicon
or Potomac
armies turn messianic
I’d lay odds on Alabama as the last
bastion of freedom
the sound of copper
dropping in the spittoon
the bloodhound rocking chair howl
the kudzu, Alabama! butternut!
while in Connecticut
or Nevada, Alaska, new kings
will come naked as the old
to play similar games on the hardscrabble
seeking oil, the woodman’s workglove
now a mark of terror, a black-headband
toothless jihad
of secrethandshake, insignia
perhaps neighborhood meetings
cellar celebrations, Rotary
as the guise of insurrection
graffiti coded on the T-72
to commemorate old ways
while our children ask
the soldiers guarding Wal-Mart
and McDonald’s
to play baseball
or give them water
bread
bic lighters
life

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