I got them at the end of a long line,
beige and stiff like new bark.
I stood taller in the mirror – the mouths
of each boot felt dry like moths in sand.
A pale, fine dust they touched first
at Syria’s shifting border.
Then East to Mosul, East over
Nineveh plain, East to fallow Tigris
where I first heard the Shahid’s cry.
Boots and Men stretch like wineskins.
(The days held hands and fled before us as we slept standing or crouched under mortar fire
those hollow chuff morning sighs we saw lambs bled in street markets as we searched for signs
of subtle hatred the white of our youth bleaching the concrete to the color of pumice or bone)
Along river banks and the giant gutters
of the city, among flies and the joined dregs
of everyone’s chai, we tasted deepest
black, the rot of a rainless mud.
TJ Reynolds writes poetry and fiction in Long Beach, CA for the vain and hopeful purpose of changing the world. He dislikes war, squabbling or even extensive horse-play. One day, TJ assumes, this will seem prudent and even kind to his three small children.