Diesel Fumes

vet hands

Diesel Fumes

You crawl back to me.
Through a parking lot’s chatter
or a sidewalk’s rumble or a park’s
closed path, you crawl back:
metallic clatter and sour clouds,
you drift into nostrils and

carry me back—

to when dirt crusted my calloused grip
and nailbeds’ arc, when chill air bristled
my shorn scalp and cracked boots
wrapped tight my aching soles
and spent brass glinted in the dust.

You were there

pouring from Humvee’s tailpipe when I stood
young and strong with shoulders aching
for weight of a ruck and hands numb in grip
of hot rifle. In my lungs, in my blood—

you were there,

coursing thick and fresh through my tempered veins,
when dying eyes met mine, when bath-hot blood
soaked into asphalt’s cracks. You mixed with its stench
and the gunpowder’s waste while palm fronds clacked
in an indigo sky.

You are here

in me now.
Dying eyes stare. I
feel you in my breath and see
you cloud pools of cooling blood
that stain black asphalt.

You are here,

filling my veins, stinging my eyes, and so strong
now I wish you to crawl further, seep deeper,
choke my lungs, my blood, so full
of your poison I’d lie still.

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