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Two Poems by Steven Croft

Steven Croft

Another day across the long valley road

Surveillance of Landfill Village, Taji, Iraq

As a soldier launches our Raven under white clouds, I 

wonder how many cops would crawl through a sewer to

catch a bank robber? -- our patrol stopped outside 

"Landfill Village" by its force field of unbearable smell.

On the laptop feed the place seems deserted, a couple

klicks of stinking dunes of garbage, and no meeting of

insurgent Toyota gun-trucks as the paid for tip led us to

believe. But the UAV feed isn't enough for higher-ups,

and we're told to recall the Raven, to roll in.

We drive avenues of Baghdad's garbage, hills pushed up

by battered, Sisyphean dozers into clots of crumpled

metal, rotted food, broken wood, clouds of flies hissing

out symphonies in hundred-twenty-degree heat. Some

crawling children sifting the garbage wave, their found

clothing in tatters, their playground sequined by white

and blue plastic grocery bags. We move on past a fetid,

rainwater lake.

Outside a shanty, where a tarp is draped over four

stacked walls of old five-gallon tin cans and a few

busted refrigerators, a man's forehead taps a rug's

clear surface in prayer, his holy eyes seeing only the

purity of heaven's light.


Another day across the long valley road

from Kabul to Paghman cratered by explosion

points, so many we call it 'IED Alley,' our

charmed patrol that hasn't been hit

in two months, that slows only for crossing

goat herds or to edge around donkey trains

packed with cut firewood or carpets. After miles of

wide blue sky and open flat we climb brown hills

into the safety of trees around Paghman.

Its Pashtun mayor hates Americans but forbids bombs

that would mar his picturesque town, peaceful

under snow-capped mountains.

We travel the main avenue, lined on one side

with shops shadowed by poplars.  The other side

of the street hangs on the edge of a river falling out

of a mountain, boiling coldly over boulders,

the sight and sound of its constant rush drowning away our

slow diesel rumble. Turret gunner today, I snap a photo of three

men, bird sellers who squat, backs rubbing the brown stone

storefront of a tea shop: Chitrali caps, long tunics and vests,

pajama pants and sandals, their wicker bird cages set out on the

stone sidewalk.

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An Army veteran of the wars in Iraq (2005-2006) and Afghanistan (2009-2010), Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia. He is the author of New World Poems (Alien Buddha Press, 2020).  His poems have appeared in Willawaw Journal, Canary, The New Verse News, The Dead Mule, Anti-Heroin Chic, and other places, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

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