Notes from the Camoufleurs by Karen Skolfield
The light in Afghanistan
is not the light in Vietnam.
If vegetation, describe the leaf.
If rock, its striation. If city, its doorways
and lintels, its hosting of guests.
Its gestures of welcome and warning.
Describe the wattage of searchlights,
the color of streetlamps, the wakefulness
of men. Describe the cigarette’s blooded eye,
a crimp of smoke. Describe evening’s
lift of heat, the riming of sweat.
If olive trees, describe the olives.
How a fig feels in the hand.
Of the women to be outfitted calculate
their curvatures and needs, if they require
more or fewer pockets for pens.
Determine torso length, musculature,
what weapons may be carried; where
the ammo belt sits, if more men
dress right or left, if concertina wire
bares its teeth every three inches or four.
Study how nature tucks itself into grasses,
study the striping of zebras, the panther’s
darkness, a savannah and the jackal
folded within; how a seal’s belly blends
with the sky when viewed from below.
A ptarmigan feathering into snow.
Describe the mission: peacekeeping
or suppression. Shield or storm.
Consider that a pattern may dazzle
or disrupt. Describe the sight lines:
heat-seeking technology versus scopes.
Scopes versus the sharp-eyed.
When a friend is not always a friend.
When a back might be turned. Consider,
at times, how the jaguar wants to be seen.
© 2020 Karen Skolfield. Today’s poem was taken from the May 2020 issue of Poetry.
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