Brian Turner


No matter the barking of the dogs,
the caravan marches on.

–Old Iraqi Proverb


A long queue of container ships
stand at anchor in the Persian Gulf.
They carry .50 caliber machine guns
in packing grease, dunnage, ammo crates,
millions of bullets laid side by side,
toilet paper, insecticides, light bulbs.
The dockside floodlights hum
with mosquitoes and malaria. Cranes
hoist connexes onto flatbed trucks
which line Highway 1 from Kuwait City
to Dohuk in the north, just south of Turkey.
Try to imagine enough boxes of food
for one hundred and thirty thousand meals,
two to three times a day, for a year.
It is an army of commerce, a fleet
of corporations with the Pacific as its highway.
It is around-the-clock, and it is every day.
These are the boxes we bring to Iraq.
And Iraq?
Today, in Baghdad, a bomb
killed 47 and wounded over one hundred.
It left a crater 10 feet deep. The stunned
gathered body parts from the roadway
and collected them in cardboard boxes.
Imagine taping those boxes and shipping them
home, to Washington, D.C., to the White House lawn,
to bury them under the green sod thrown over,
box by box emptied into that rich soil
in silence, a Marine sentry standing guard
as boxes are lowered into the ground nearby
at the National Monument, Tomb of the Unknown,
our own land given to these, to say
if this is freedom, then we will share it.



“Caravan” was first published in Crab Orchard Review, Documenting the Decade Issue.