Designing a Bird from Memory in Jack’s Skin Kitchen
by Eliot Khalil Wilson

We hated everything below us,
We’d come to hate the ground itself,
to dread the heavy ropes of gravity
drawing us down from blue
to a brooding green
which would billow in tan dust
like waves of fistic clouds.

We’d come to kill
the afternoons, to evade
the blanket heat by flying out of rifle reach
and dropping mortar rounds through the clouds and trees,
our demented resentment
entirely non-personal.

I would come to forget Isaac
our Arab gunner with his shell carton filled with baklava
and just how mixed he was
bearded, but awash in after-shave,
dropping incendiary bombs and Hershey bars at the same time,
Viet S’mores we called it.
How he could shoot his .50 caliber, stoned on hash,
as accurate as fate itself.
How he’d shoot children and dogs,
but not women or birds. Bad luck,
he said. Even when they are dead,
women and birds remember.

I would forget how we found him later in Song Ngan Valley
            mixed with the ground and chopper,
repatriated, tangled like a lover,
his broken hand up and open
as if feeling for rain,
or patiently expecting some small gratuity.
The visor of his helmet shining the same
blue-black iridescence
as the glass of Chartes cathedral.

Right here, I tell the tattoo man
giving him my arm,
A blue bird, that certain blue, with black eyes
and rising.