Rumors of War

For years, I hadn’t seen or heard from Kevin Moon.
He shot me once, in mid-summer, a shining bead
of lead or copper—whatever kind of metal is mined
for boys forced out of doors into the world—
lodging in my thigh like the seed of some
future violence. We’d wrestle in the waxing heat,
our pale bodies pressed to earth, simplified among
the curling magnolia blooms. He said I was
aggressive, the first time I’d ever heard the word,
and when I asked he drove his knuckles into my gut,
dying pine-scent suddenly flooding my empty lungs,
a commotion of crows unburdening their branches.
After that we shared a cigarette—a cowboy killer
he called it, like the bitter taste of time itself.

In a cinder-block bar off of Interstate 65
I watched the bombs and tracer-rounds falling
over Baghdad, the beamed-in image green and
granulated like a copper light in flame. He was there,
I knew, and I heard how he was merciless, efficient
under fire, every shell a perfect seal of light,
a distant promise of glory for us and our children,
our children’s children. High in the limbs of the magnolia,
a voice—I see you, and that was all he said that day,
his eyes bright as he leveled the little rifle to fire.

At the 76 gas station last week, I saw him stacking
cartons of Camels behind the counter, carefully,
with monk-like rectitude. I called his name, he turned,
and in that moment I only wanted leaden heat and fire again,
to run until my muscles burned in their acid, the earth,
and time and I falling away to nothing. He was lost,
a boy, shadows closing over him, in him. I paid and
stepped into the blinding light of summer, the distant
cries of children drifting to meet me across the green.

Daniel DeVaughn is the executive editor of the arts journal Cumulus, as well as the co-curator of the The Daily Dive, an online forum for the exchange of literature, music and visual art. He holds an MFA from the University of Oregon, and has received fellowships from Sewanee, the Norman Mailer Writer’s Workshop, and the Vermont College of the Fine Arts.