Poetry  November 2010 | issue 419

Selected Poems

by Kevin C. Powers

KEVIN C. POWERS served in Iraq with the U.S. Army. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the New Orleans Review, Poetry, and the New York Quarterly. He is pursuing an mfa in poetry at the University of Texas at Austin. When not thinking about poetry or Italy (where he hopes to live someday) he can be found riding his Royal Enfield motorcycle through the Texas hill country.

Great Plain

Here is where appreciation starts: the Iraqi boy
in a dusty velour tracksuit almost getting shot.
When I say boy, I mean it. When I say almost
getting shot
, I mean exactly that. For bringing
unexploded mortar shells right up to us
takes a special kind of courage I don’t have.
A dollar for each one, I’m told,
on orders from brigade hq
to let the local children do the dirty work.

When I say I’d say, Fuck that, let the bastards find them
with the heels of their boots
, who cares if I mean us
as bastards and who cares if heels of boots means things
that once were and now are not, the way grass once was green
and now is not, the way the muezzin call once was
five times a day and now is not.
And when I say heel of boot, I hope you’ll appreciate
that I really mean the gone foot, any one of us
timbered and inert, and when I say green,
I mean like fucking Nebraska, wagon wheels on the prairie
and other things that can’t be appreciated
until you’re far away and they come up
as points of reference.

I don’t know what Nebraska looks like.
I’ve never been. When I say Nebraska,
I mean the idea of it, the way an ex-girlfriend of mine
once talked about the idea of a gun. But guns are not ideas.
They are not things to which comparisons are made. They are

one weight in my hand when the little boy crests the green hill
and the possibility of shooting him or not extends out from me
like the spokes of a wheel. The hills are not green anymore,
and in my mind they never were, though when I say they were,
I’m talking about reality. I appreciate that too,

the hills were green,
someone else has paid him
for his scavenging, one less
exploding thing beneath our feet.
I appreciate the fact
that for at least one day I don’t have to decide
between dying and shooting a little boy.




The complete text of this selection is available
to subscribers in our print and digital editions.

Personal. Political. Provocative. Ad-free. Subscribe today.