When I was sure the nurse was out
in the sick bed next to mine,
And 30 milligrams of Karachi diazepam couldn’t stop
the thudding propellers,
I rose quiet as a Seal and aimed for the
poppy fields of Helmand District located
just south of the analgesic section
I had scoped in the clinic medicine chest.
I almost got them right
Into my open mouth
Little white words I can’t spit out
When the nurse’s voice
Blazed through Afghan darkness
ten years of Texas truck stop waitress behind it
like a red warning flare that said
That’s why you’re here.
Rick Gray has a poem appearing in the winter issue of Salamander. He was a finalist for the Editor’s Award at MARGIE. His essay, “Total Darkness,” will appear in the forthcoming book, Neither Here Nor There: An Anthology of Reverse Culture Shock. When not in Afghanistan, he lives in Florida with his wife and twin daughters.