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Wednesday, June 17, 2009


by Elisabeth von Uhl

“(Here) the barrel is uncovered. Soldiers in Iraq use standard issue covers or condoms to keep sand and dirt out of the weapon.”
- Defense used to question the authenticity of photos taken at Abu Ghraib.

In his mouth, the soldier mixes pain
          and memory
expecting honor, now a broken tooth:

          kept breathing, throbbing
through guns. Condoms keep dust
          out of barrels, keep

forever in the “flesh of flesh” bestowed
          to binge, purge, create.
Failure forces the soldier to lean on men

          in darkness, neither faces
seen to remember nor to accuse.
          Clutch his steadfast steel,

forget casings, cuss words keep
          him warmer
than embraces. Trust the only light

          the soldier sees is of the stars.
and desire layers of fight to fall, crumble,
          twist away. Reveal instincts

to have war-torn him beyond tongue-
          tied around prayers.
Combat, a storm never strong enough

          to douse his drought
and, like everyone: his violence
          is the only justified violence.

Those lands the soldier has said to conquer
          with earth against
his shield, broken armor, and enemies

          fully aware are now kept away
from loss by beating
          blind-clad unsuspectings.

Is it still prey
          if the soldier’s strength is not known
until they are defeated

          and pinned beyond
their surrender?

Elisabeth von Uhl graduated in May 2005 with an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She now teaches composition at Fordham University in New York City. Her work has been published in Lumina, The Broome Review, Moria, and The Cortland Review. Also, her chapbook, Ocean Sea, is published by Finishing Line Press.