New Poetry by J. Scott Price

 

Captain Who?

That gut-black October night, a security patrol set out:

a platoon of Afghans

and two of us. They,

cloaked in toughness; we,

in mountains of gear, humped

an unseen base plate of irony

that chuckled, unheard.

 

Since the first tribes found common ground

with naming a common foe

and Allies first align side-by-side,

the dog sniff test begins— the unuttered,

unmetered tango that discretely discerns

the order on the Totem of Men.

 

Let’s see what they can do, the closemouthed metronome

for the mission first cadence thrummed on the drums-of-tough.

Respect doled only

to those standing

when the pounding is complete.

 

Our security objective below, the key terrain far too far above,

we must sweep the elevated ridgeline for threats.

Afghan comrades lead us up

and up

and up

that mountain until we

could take no more. Wheezing

far from the top, we stop, defeated,

conceding victory in this unavowed war.

 

They smirked in the dark, unseen. We, it seemed,

were merely piles of panted breath,

exhaling vanquished pride.

 

At this critical point of concession, something suspicious up ahead in the dark.

Few mutual words to discern the threat, only frantic mimicry

of Charades-Gone-Bad to help:

but we all agree,

my NODs are needed now.

 

Leaning forward to green-light detect, I find no threat. But

with strained abdominals abused

and glutes pulling up the rear too loose

we are all ambushed by the unexpected—

a jarring, yet-almost-polite, puny

poof.

 

Not a valley rumbling show of force that loosens all inside

but a dry, mundane-almost-nothingness

that takes the Afghans by surprise.

 

The Lion of Ghazni

they dubbed one of my friends

in awe of his courage and his heart,

and I secured my place on their Totem

as the anointed

Captain Fart.

 

B Hut

“Brand Vision: Making the best air conditioner in the world.

Brand Mission: Making life better.”

Chigo Air Conditioning Co., LTD

 

Chigo heats, Chigo cools

with labored breath that soothes

ambient air despite never taming

the beastly space inside the plywood shell

 

where 12 guys retreat from the daily 15 hour duties

that composes their yearlong song with

just one more mundane or horrifying measure.

There are melodies of boredom and harmonies of fear

and it serenades to unrestful-sleep the

 

12 guys crammed into their plywood shell,

smaller than a suburbanite’s play room.

There’s plenty of opportunity to partake

in olfactory unease, and plenty of opportunity

to never really be at ease.

 

Stacked high and hard against the walls, poncho liner

privacy offers only illusions of solitude

and enough space to retreat into that illusion

just to be somewhere else during sleep.

 

Steadfast Chigo, their toolbox-sized comrade

high on the wall remains unnoticed

unless deemed malingering.

Chigo will usually be abandoned ,

unthought-of when the song is done.

 

But one fated Chigo has a terminal task to perform,

never envisioned during engineering,

nor tested during production, for

aimed with a rock and Allah’s will,

released with a wind up clock,

a discarded Soviet rocket rains

through plywood

and Chigo braces, unmoved

to shear off a detonator

 

that would have ended the song

in cacophony instead of a story that begins,

“You ain’t gonna believe this shit…”

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Scott Price

J. Scott Price served as an infantryman in the Virginia Army National Guard from 1986 to 2011, and deployed in support of OIF and OEF during that time. Though he occasionally wrote poetry during his time in service, he’s been slowly allowing it a more prominent place in his life, and recently began MFA in Writing studies at Vermont College of Fine Arts. He now volunteers with numerous veteran service organizations and, for fun, sings barbershop harmony. Please feel free to connect with him on Twitter, @ABoyAndHisSons.

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