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Monday, November 14, 2011


by Matthew Boulay

After ten years of war
I crawled from battle
And took refuge in a ditch

It was the ditch where Ira died
And I pushed aside his bones
And waited

Long and narrow, the ditch was nothing
No water flowed, the crops had long ago shriveled and died
I shed my uniform and lay naked and unmolested
The afternoon sun vanished, the warmth of the day turned cold
And I began to dig

The topsoil was soft and cool and loosely packed
And the earth fell easily from my fingers
I dug without rest and I dug without food or drink
The ditch became a hole and the hole become a tunnel
And the dark silence of the tunnel became my friend

Night and day took their differing turns
And the weeks became months
And the months grew long
And the earth turned hard and the soil resisted
Jagged rocks ripped my fingers and my hands blistered and bled
My body ached and I became desperate for water

Deep and narrow, the tunnel was nothing
And so I stopped digging
And waited there in the bowels of our earth

And now, reader, you must stop pretending
There is no soldier, there is no digging, there is no tunnel
There is only war and the emptiness of a writer writing
Cover your eyes, nothing will be salvaged

Matthew Boulay served in Iraq in 2003.  He can be reached at Matthew_Boulay(at) .