for the fallen servicemen and
women in Afghanistan
but I’m going home, so when you
hear that alarm, you stop whatever
you’re doing. Don’t care
if you’re on the can.
Run. The ‘copters are coming,
loaded with our boys, our
girls. No matter where the unit
comes in from or who’s suspected among
the wounded—that could mean some
of your kin, men or friends—
you do your job. Everybody
receives the same care and
medical attention here.
Okay, nurse, I know you’re new, have
never seen death this close, but I
want you to breathe. No, no!
Get a hold of yourself, baby. You
can do this. Breathe. Look at me.
Look at me, right here
in my eyes. You see me. Yes. You
see me. Now take deep breathes.
I realize you’re young. What, not yet
nineteen? But you got this, okay.
Follow me. Press the arms down close to
the chest. Place the dog tag on
the toe. Another in the teeth. And
zip. That’s all I want you
to do. Think three things: toe,
teeth, and zip. Toe, teeth, and zip.
Outside, the Afghan night lies
thick and dry, the still
incinerating air choked with
dust. No off day at the
hospital. Didn’t come on
vacation. I’m serving, but when
I cannot move, mind and body
fatigue faint, like the rest of my nurses,
I can rest. I must be at my best.
My mission is to help save
lives, comfort, patch, until
our soldiers can be flown
out. Periodically I remind those
who don head wraps to ward off
this Afghan heat
hot enough to broil
potatoes at high noon:
Please know that
if I suspect
ISIS, I’m gone apologize to
your mother and send you home
in a body bag. I told you. Don’t
know about you,
but I’m going home.
A whole lotta woman, I’m
bigger than most. I’ve seen
what I pray others may never see.
Am sitting outside the hospital now,
watching the sunrise in this
strange part of the world. I’m
filled with sadness, just thinking of
the soldiers who will
never again witness this moment.
Wet streaks crystal my cheeks
when I eventually
rise, blood sloshing in my boots,
to return to duty.
(c) Claudia Moss 4/6/2015