Vanderhoevens send notes and beef jerkies in big labeled tape swelling boxes sweated in netting ribbed cargo tombs of jetliners chartered and rechartered with pallets pine-corrugated smelling uncured and Northwoodsy and brimming little redwhiteblue flags point-ended and fools’ gold shined on their plastic tips and little Psalters and Bibles and hemhaws of knickknackery, soaps and soap dispensers, toothbrushes, caramels mom-made, gum, sticks of pixie dust left over from last year’s Halloween, no one knows towhere they go when they are tossed aside and out in pursuit of the beef jerkies and Maxims and Red-scented notes flowery writ and teased with smileyface X -n- O wishyouwereheres and lipstick because such trappings of patriotism worn ragged worn on peltskin collars by vicarious everywhere mourning soccermoms and once upon a time warprotestor hippiedads now graying genteel and grandfathers stewed in their sweet memories of old ignoble war mean little to inpatriots except insofar that they, these things, keep coming.
      A quarry turned dump where roughshod Babylon toyotas ubiquitous white with the redorange stripes and rigged metalwork decorous sides, a strange prideful utilitarian edifice if ever there was, standard Saddam issue we guess, or why so many and alike?, come in deadnight with their hovelgarbage very noticeably western peculiar, PVC pipes, plastics bright shaded some seventeen million colors and sunfaded to heterogeneous retrograde tie-died dimpling, magazines, toiletries, aerosols, iron, sheepdung, dumped, dumped where thickfooted flymouth children play in a tremulous potent heat stepping from spent shellcasing to syringe graceful as damned seraphim unaware of what Fell. Here there are where the glittergold little flag-ends and lapel pushpins and knickknacks are strewn sometimes plucked for mere shinyvalue by childwomen curios and used, you will find, if you look close at ghalabia or burka, in hair or hand, knotted as replacements such ragjewels repurposed. Here then an audience for chintz in all its formmodeled massive luster, the blowmolding maxed out amalgamation of capital machines Vanderhoeven remote that chug chug chug in thirdshift importation from Thailand and Suriname and Guatemala so that little medallions of America may pass through American uxory to great-Aunt thoughtfulness and pinch your cheek to the slim grace chance of through capital oomph achanging mankind or to rather more likely the death in debris of an earth.
      Joe this one sort of something kicks from the berm dust walking in berm shadows slight mile or more round the inside beneath towers of his desertbare base. No one notices skitter plunk soar stumble up and slide down or the rivulet sand weathering in the kickedthing’s restful lee some synapse fires to the sound snakequick and mournful of the sliding soil but that last halfthought is maybe the very last that the thing inspires though all it had wanted ever ever in its manufacturing lust and forebearance of such an unseemly incarnation was to wave. ‘Tis actually just what I said a flagpole short where it snapped, the redwhiteblue torn free from cheap softwood and staples uptoothed and ganglion mangled but Joe steps forward not upward to the berm grave resting and beckoningness of the thing: Joe moves on. Then after and always each day more the flag-end withers without rot in the arid ‘til it dusts away and the berm dusts away and the staples stain the flat stoneshadows Hiroshima red.
      It says to all who might pluck it up here America was. We litter like Roman roads. Everlasting and symbolically. Mightily, magnificently.
      Joe moving.
      Joe looking on a world full of grocery list poetry et al:


Column 1:





Column 2:

Pixie sticks




      Wherewith the within Motorpool ambling quiet as Easter Island edifices longshadowing moles earthworked sandbag by sandbag to thickglassed HMMWVs in a squared row reflecting a rising second day of his trouble from the sand haze strange and glimmerful oil-stained bulletglass, a transparent armor named as it is in the washing instruction tag, with an NSN, windshield squintingly narrow and vacant in the ardor of a mournwaking war machine world, windshield widowing these men from the misfortune of the very air, they must not breath the scent of a goatherd limping, a mother now mother no more, a whirlwind girl gone from the Where Art Thou O Juliet of her house.




      Ahh!, what great doubling lungfilling dryness in the dusk of the hotblue haze of evening with laptop-light silvering spilled shards of sand where tentflaps fixate imperfectly breezing wider wider and flacking shut so the beam dims and swells, dims and swells, and we sit halfdark deep in the folding chair Corona armrest of workaday done and watch the skybelly paste orange in disorder of a farlight reflecting oilfires Olympian eternal some twenty-K distant, watch motorpool dust kick and swirl from invisible passing osmosis of trucks and nontacticals and all around like crickets blending into mindbackground nothought the rummy heaving hulk of generators.
      We talk.
      Several of us.
      Not Joe, though. He is nowhere tonight.
      Or somewhere else.
      We’re not sure.
      A largesse of small nothings like fear of silence and still-communion like some greater fear than the truth of fear confronted daily driving north driving south with weapons amber fed with their leadtipped lozenges and laid lap across or nosedown scopedown so that they somehow if maybe fire it is no chin or himheart but feet that Mars first must face.
      Some say striking no-things. We big zen now baby like the Hemmy so and so will have when home despite oil futures or the Fatboy he somebody else in the circle has circled in his Harleybook and hung in the tent coolness as if it is the home Vanderhoeven he really thinks might maybe must in its chrome and cherry redvixen sparkle of leather and getsome exist.
      (Little girls falling upward from thirdstory gapes in new nightdreams and dayhaunting times escaped, escaped through little notalk and chummery uncatchable.)
      Some stripey muskellunge First Sergeant hooked in the slim few spring days before call-up and we’re-going-now he has screensavered it because not only like a prize, it escaped, fled, threwbait and back into the bogmaze lilies from whence it had been lured but not before, not before the click capture of one-handed picture taking, the other reeling and holding and sawing upward with full rodforce to force it ever closer closer to the hull and to falling through its sky into a world of muskellunge nothought and gaspingness, like the desertdry and hurt hovels a Midwestern boy cannot help but fail to imagine, and unseen to a man in the dayworld realworld of muskycatching-time but quickcaught in shutter lens instant a shadow, this second shadow makes the picture sing, sing special beyond mere comment, special as in First Sergeant’s boys in the dust hot decline of an evening will talk, talk, talk of it, night on night, special thing is the shadow of a second fish following, bigger and deeper in the bogmaze lilies: mate, mother, stalker, friend, following the hooked fish inward to the hull, toward lakesky, toward oblivion.
      Can’t get over it, is what is said.
      See the size of it, man?
      The first or the second?
      Both, shit.
      I’m gonna catch me a musky when I get back. Spend all summer just fishin, that’s what.
      Not like that you won’t.
      Huh? Like what?
      One muskie with the other there with it, that’s what you won’t.
      No, says he. No, I suppose I won’t. That’s just one-of-a-kind muskie fishin, that is.
      See, here then, that’s close. Close as they/we get in the small notalk of hazenight’s rising when the wind hot rustles the lean-to of the netting and baretoes in showershoes and Teva’s kickback on sawed-off oildrum tables sounding when plopped like deep tar coated memories of Jamaica-music and rum. That’s close, this muskie fishing, close to something felt known near-palpable epiphany tip-tongue indescribable except in fleeting flashbang of someone waking when awake to see through sight the sight imposed on everything of her fall-flattening, screamfalling upward toward a ground ceasing in the reset, zoom, start-over and pinchme of a dream.
      How should mantalk hedge and angle around it, spin it, outline it, frame it in manwords of monofilament and spent shotgun shells by gutpiles and applebait where deer cross willow creekbeds each autumn exactly at morning? How, how can man in manbond of having had it near almost caught real but fleeting this sight of something wake-waking him, all-expecting more suchness, all been some subtle unspeakingofit each of them changed, how speak share it if not in cipher deerhide, muskiebait, leatherman, Wiley-X, Marilyn Manson and Maxim/FHM?
      Why not vapidity?
      Why not skim it round with words that don’t mean words no more at all but community in its most etymological soulness of talk so that nowords show it in its outline whole?

Benjamin Buchholz is an Army officer currently serving in Iraq. His recent work explores the process of alienation, change and growth, of becoming unordinary, that soldiers must endure. His work been featured in Tryst and in Identity Theory. Other credits include The Wisconsin Academy Review, The 2River View, Jack, Harness, Gambara, Action/Yes, Opium, Antimuse, Hiss Quarterly, Drunken Boat, and others. He has a first collection of short fiction and poetry called New Animals forthcoming through PulpBits. Visit Benjamin's website here.