I Hear News You’re in Helmand Province

Gabriella R. Tallmadge

In your last letter,
you said you’re living at Kajaki Dam,
where the Helmand River is a muscular sash.
Mostly, you see sandbags in the windows
and watch the thin shoulders of the road
as you drive down the hill to a post
called The Shrine.

Your future is blank
like a pony’s wall eye, as holy,
as sick as that pony
as it’s led, step by step
past the fence.

I’ve never named a horse
and had to bury it.
I remember every dog I had
that ran away from home.
These little wounds are everywhere
inside me and I’ve prayed to each one
and felt hurt.

I’m so filled up with January,
a mum chamber lodged with sleep.
In dreams, you’re killed
and I see your high-walled wilderness
reaching higher than the light does.

Once, before you left for Afghanistan,
I researched the time it takes between death
and family notification. I fantasized for days,
fit my face with grief—it never took.
Because where would I keep that violence—
you expiring like an animal—
bullets humming to themselves like bees?



Gabriella R. Tallmadge serves as Web & Social Media Manager for www.OnePausePoetry.org, a non-profit arts organization, reading series, and audio archive. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Passages North, DIALOGIST, Fifth Wednesday, and The Journal. She can be found in San Diego and on Twitter (@GRTallmadge). Tallmadge has another poem published in this issue of Phoebe, which you can read here. 

You’ll find biographies for all contributors to Phoebe 43.2 here. 

One Reply to “I Hear News You’re in Helmand Province”

  1. […] Read the entire poem here. (Psst… she’s got another poem in the issue, too!) […]