by Lucas Shepherd
Rafters of tall, sprawling
ifit trees. Cobwebs wallpapering
the edge of the road. Fantails
and drongos flapping in and out of sight.
Our guide, a Chamorro woman dressed
in jean shorts and a polo shirt with hair so black
it’s blue like the South Pacific on a cloudless night
when you’re exactly drunk enough to see all the facts God has disguised.
Before this deployment I never knew
the U.S. liberated Guam in 1944. But
we have not let the Chamorro
people forget ever since.
During midshift I light my way with the fiery tails
of F-15s performing full afterburner takeoffs. The
flightline is alive with the glory of freedom, JP-8,
and a coconut crab that has lost her way.
Our guide showed us things we may have
otherwise missed. On this island they say
An guaha guinaiya, guaha lina’la’ lokkue’.
If there is love, there is life.
I take the garbage can to the curb, brush my
hand up and down our juniper tree’s waist.
Crows shotgun from the leafy cluster. Wind gusting
down Truman Street sounds like fabric being ripped.
We live our lives so fast—that’s what I think,
out loud. Lemon peel sun, clouds a flavor I tasted
once at a mall and never thought of again.
Hot day cooling down at last. Ides of March
and I forget the setup, only remember the punch
line to a childhood joke: Orange Julius Caesar.
Neighbor’s rusty SUV the color of a two-week-
old banana. Yucca plants—Spanish bayonet—
daggers in their yard. Driveway cracks
reminds me of first-grade cursive.
Someone important once said time is a dish best
served cold. A rolling stone gathers no time. Etc.
When I left, my friend Tony from Ammo
gifted me a spent 105 millimeter
howitzer shell. Brassy color and smells
metallic, oily. Round as a beer mug,
long as a big man’s boot. It’s hollow.
When you flick the top it rings like
an angry wind chime. For now, I hide it
from my son in the spare bedroom closet.
When he’s old enough we’ll
excavate it together using
a VBIED Inspection mirror, HME
Detector Kit, breakaway pulleys.
Multi-Plier 600 with lanyard ring
and flat-edge knife. Spool with carabiner.
Medical shears, curved forceps.
Blast suit with acoustic impedance.
Radio silence until Alpha Charlie.
I will tell him, this is from the past.
A long time ago. It can no longer
harm us. But you can’t be too careful.
Where I come from a doe abandons her fawn at birth
for several days so her scent won’t compromise
the newborn to predators: coyotes, mountain lions, etc.
The buck leaves for less noble reasons, never
to return, which is why we rarely mention it.
Son, I stay for you not because of instinct
but a total disregard for it. I can teach you
how to disassemble a dash sixty generator;
I was never that good at putting it back together.
Lucas Shepherd is an MFA student at the University of New Mexico. His creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, Aldous Huxley Annual, and Conversation Noises. These and more can be found on his website, lucas-shepherd.com. He is now completing a novel, West by Midwest, about demolition derby and redemption.