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by C. Dylan Bassett


As boys, we played Samurai-games and ran wild:

A clan without horses—chucking chawed-up bark
and saw-scored sword
like the jaw-bone of an ass.

We wrote down Kendo with rocks and bricks,
Yari made from sticks, teeth-crooked Jos.

We drew small cuts that stuck
in our flesh; marks made dark with blood-promises:
Come home alive.


Ranz home early from Iraq, fireworks on the fourth—

When we first shot off that bottle-rocket,
Ranz ran for the backyard roost.

He said he hid from those familiar sounds,
from ghosts and open spaces, said the pitch-dark shed
was shaded like the place where he waited
for the moment to pass.

Sleep is too silent, he says,

Where faces float like shapes of light in photographs,
some nights (most nights) those echoes
sound imperfectly familiar.

These days he scuttles to a makeshift bed of scrap-wood,
trying to think of anything
but a Samurai, who upon defeat

would rather offer his own head
than let a moment pass by when he should die.