Poetry No. 9 – Aaron Graham

Funeral Pyre
By Aaron Graham

I open the aperture so I can see in the white-
green night vision lines, the outline of the flames.
The minaret.
The courtyard square.
The golden sands that appear
as a cold, dark green,
an eternal crystalline lawn,
in the scope of my rifle.
In this village, folks say God crumbles
up the old moon into stars.

On the night of the ambush you could see
my platoon commander’s body, pierced all through
with shrapnel.
Blood and rags were all we saw.
Light the fire.
So we can see Lt. Dawes.
His heart is an old tomcat,
let loose in this foreign land
to be devoured by jackals
and orphaned children.

Light the fire so we can see Aisha,
her opium poppies growing along dust-roads.
The IEDs hidden in camels’ bellies.
Daisy chained pressure plates
that started appearing beneath Snickers
wrappers a week after word was passed
to police call local streets for trash.

When the fire was lit,
everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
Creation became shrouded
in a night vision bright-out.
That erasure was the gift I gave myself:
a nocturnal, white-hot sun
swallowed into the moon.

Aaron Graham hails from Glenrock, WY—population 1159. His work explores the relationship of desire, compassion, sympathy, and love to violence—especially how these ties become renegotiated in active combat zones as well as play out against the backdrop of resilience, latency, and transmission that has colored the national conversation surrounding trauma and moral Injury in maritime society. He is an alumnus of Squaw Valley Writers Workshop and The Ashbury Home School (Hudson) and a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where he served with Marine Corps Intelligence as part of The Combined Human Intelligence and Counterterrorism Task Force in addition to serving as an Arabic linguist. Aaron currently resides in Atlanta and is finishing a PhD in Literature at Emory.

Photo by: Gessy Alvarez

One thought on “Poetry No. 9 – Aaron Graham

  1. A very powerful poem.The ability to meld natural imagery against a background of violence is something I’ve not seen before.

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