Author’s Note: “War Game: Which is Which” is from Kill Class (Tupelo, 2018). The collection is based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork conducted within war training camps in mock Middle Eastern villages erected by the U.S. military across America. Sketches three, five, and seven are largely remixed from actual military character sketches.

Pass the Taco Bell. Pass the wishing well: the door to Pineland is due South. Soldiers name me Gypsy. Gypsy, climb out of whatever cracked you. Can’t you, Gypsy, let this road alone hold you? Dew in lace teeth, asphalt catches the sun. Feral green: synapse torches. Light lancing the village open.

~

Don’t talk to Omar who plays the bad guy. He belly laughs during the show. Omar is from the South /North /center of Iraq. Omar opens a barber stand under the trees between games, clowns around. Omar are you dead? Are you bad? Find out which is which. If Omar is from a village, it is the one where pear & date orchards were felled. If you hid there, between the bodies of birds you would feel cold spring light skinning your shins.

~

Yusuf is the tribal leader of the village, comes from a long line of leaders & he holds much sway among the villagers. Attitude: cautious. He wants to help the Americans as he thinks this is the path to security & prosperity. Yusuf they want you to turn the people open their locks.

~

Laith snickers in the heat as upon his lean abdomen they fix a wound. Quick, Laith you were first in your class, you wanted to study & understand the words in every Hollywood movie. You did it to help & you wanted to shine: you are of this country, carved from its side. The Human Terrain Team wants to write you down.

~

Ali owned a shop in the village. His son was killed by an [errant] Predator strike. Death of his son has never negatively affected his view of Coalition Forces /& he just wants to be left alone.

~

Selling fake chickpea soup, swallowing air, Nafeesa in winter Nafeesa in autumn. Welcome to the slate gray sky propping up the game. Listen: something bad did happen to Nafeesa, or to someone else, or to all of them, or. Men in police uniforms take you to the Kill Yard. Take whomever worked w/ the Americans, no matter why & spinning nearly into N’s spine in the aftershock of a spectacular wind, until my love, reboot.

~

Ralia, a mother, her eldest detained during night raid remains distraught b/c according to her her son was a good boy never did anything wrong why her son taken & where taken to

 
 
 


NOMI STONE’s second collection of poems, Kill Class, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in 2018. She is also the author of the poetry collection Stranger’s Notebook (TriQuarterly, 2008), a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Anthropology at Princeton University, and an MFA Candidate in Poetry at Warren Wilson College. Poems appear recently in The New Republic, Bettering American Poetry 2017, The Best American Poetry 2016, Poetry Northwest, Sixth Finch, diode, and elsewhere. An article on her anthropological research on the war camps appears in the February 2017 issue of Cultural Anthropology, and she is currently working on an ethnography about these micro-sites of Empire called “Human Technology and The Making of American War.” (@nomistonestone)

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