Saint Paul was a jackass, my father muttered,
keystroking his tank into position in “The Mother
Of All Tank Battles.” I turned back to the screen,
maneuvering pixilated tanks. Each arrow key
altered trajectory, each cursor tap a tank blast. Fast-
forward two decades: in a cubicle outside Vegas,
Jonah joysticks his Predator above Afghanistan,
drone jockey hovering above a house on computer screen.
He knows someone’s inside. Is it his target? Who else
inside—cooking, crawling—will not outrun his digital will?
He is cross-hairs and shaking frame. Stone implosion.
He watches the collapse replay onscreen, then
heads home. Pizza. Diaper rash. Removes a thumb
from his toddler’s sleeping mouth. Again, no sleep….
quaintly obsolete. On mailboxes around our neighborhood,
our beagle would sign his line of piss, which said: it’s good
to be alive and eating meat. He was adding to the map
that we can’t see, liquid notations on our suburban escape.
At Great Lakes Naval Base, my father imagined permutations
of disaster. We were Region Five. Coordinates run,
scenarios conceived, New Madrid fault lines, the possible
flood of Des Plaines, a tornado’s blinding spiral
rolling its dozer across the plain. No preparing for it,
just to pick up what remained. If a nuclear bomb hit
Chicago, the epicenter here, he’d draw concentric circles
radiating, a pebble disturbing the mirror of a lake. Each circle
meant a slower death. Between us and them, the Wall
was a mirror reflecting us and nothing beyond. The whole
world was what the mirror hung upon. He showed me how
to hold a blade, how to watch my reflection for every nick, how
to cut my face without bleeding. I bled. I hooked my glasses
over teenaged ears. Outside, the blur of lawn became grass,
each blade stabbing upward to light. I thought I knew
we see as through a glass, darkly…. My frames have narrowed
to lenses eye-sized. My myopia grows. To see
what’s happening, I open a laptop, lean into the screen:
Philip Metres has written a number of books and chapbooks, most recently A Concordance of Leaves (Diode 2013), abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine 2011), winner of the 2012 Arab American Book Award in poetry, To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941 (University of Iowa 2007). His work has appeared in Best American Poetry, and Inclined to Speak: Contemporary Arab American Poetry, and has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, four Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Anne Halley Prize, the Arab American Book Award, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. See http://www.philipmetres.com and http://behindthelinespoetry.blogspot.com for more information.