Paul David Adkins – Poetry

Paul David Adkins lives in New York and works as a counselor. He served in the US Army for 21 years.

Christmas Eve Night on an Iraqi Helicopter Pickup Zone

On Christmas Eve 1968, I mistook aircraft lights
for reindeer.

Tonight, sky-hooves
churn darkness to chaff.

Through the blast of their settling
we clamber the frames,
buck from the earth

leaving four dented coke cans,
three candy wrappers,
two plastic bottles
and a tan, empty MRE sack
to drape on a tree as we rise.

Iraq:  Receiving 2004 Florida Election Fliers

In Iraq, the war.

Back home
women ran for judges,
council members.

I felt proud –
their faith
in the nation.

They knew something
more than war
of courage.

Something different
yet similar,
juxtaposed –

a drop of blood,
a shred of rose.

30 July, 1915:  While Surfaced, SM U-28 Observes the Sinking and Subsequent Explosion of the Torpedoed SS Iberian, Sixty Feet Beneath the Waves of the Sea

It was an incredible sight,
Iberian’s bow plunging, wrenched
in the grip of Aegir.

But nothing compared

when, thirty seconds down,
the entire ship
blew up. Nothing

in the geyser

of spray and smoke,
spinning men and split lifeboats,
antenna masts and flying freight
of Georgia pine,


prepared us
to witness an eighty foot
blown aloft, writhing like a fire hose,

to further watch it
slap back in the chop
delivered by the watery palm of Ran,

to watch it
snap its jaws in the flotsam
as a rain of four by fours
split against its breached,
bony skull.

Military Intelligence

I did not see bodies,
blood nor burning trucks.
I did not brush aside
shrieking women in the flaming market
nor ignore their sobbing children.
I stayed on the FOB.

But I knew.

I did not see
but knew the way
I knew what happened
in the room next door
in college.

I did not need to see
the swollen eye
to know a blow was dealt.
I heard the smack.

I deciphered breaking glass,
knew two lovers fought.

I knew he forced her — how she screamed,
stopped screaming.
I did not have to watch the hand
shutter the mouth.
It was none of my affair.

But I knew.

And I don’t have to tell you.

But I will.

Because if I don’t
I am the door
which withstood
the butting shoulder,
pounding fists.

Excel Spreadsheet — Detainee Release List, Iraq 

It’s numbing
how uniform
1,000 men appear
listed on a spreadsheet —
cities, dates,
numbers and times
lined straight
as the sandbags
of a bunker.
Their names melt
into a sticky
confluence —
It’s hard to discern
whose beaming families,
weeping mothers, are whose
gathered at the prison gates.
It’s hard not to feel
happy for them:
not text,
wrapping around.


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