goat in the cleared village
BY GRAHAM BARNHART
I did what I had always:
mangle grass and mud beneath my hooves,
between my dull-cornered teeth.
Between walled houses, orange
blossoms chimed in a green bower.
Barn thrush and sovereign kestrel
traversed second-story windows—
some open, some broken—on invisible thread.
I don’t understand stories but have
nuzzled wingspans of their dead,
their evaporating bones. I understood
their lightness as they feathered
the roasting smell of torched hashish
through the tree branches and green leaves
and orange blossoms.
In the poppy field,
a woman dipped her head, hiding.
There were ribbons fluttering
from palm trunks and dry poppies rattling.
There was gunfire. It doorwayed the morning.
There was gunfire, and it painted the wind red.
Whatever night left lingering, lingered
in pieces—a clay bowl flowering the kitchen floor,
the sound of blood dragging fur, of holes
being made and refilled. I was the sound
of children running. Blue and cloud,
every alley ended in the sky, or iron gates
with red spray-paint X’s from the last time
these homes were made safe.
Cans of purple smoke swelled
velvet sheets. A soldier turned a doorway
into his silhouette, his barrel exactly
the size of my eye. He leveled
a fresh white X as he passed.
Graham Barnhart is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and recently earned an MFA from The Ohio State University. His work has received the 2016 Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans from the Iowa Review and the 2015 Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from Beloit Poetry Journal, and is forthcoming from Horsethief, Prelude, Tinderbox, and Waxwing.
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