“Backblast Area Clear” by Karen Skolfield
“I shot one of those,” I say to Dennis, pointing
at the screen. It’s a light anti-tank weapon,
a LAW, long fiberglass tube, next to weightless.
I was 17 when I picked it up,
drill sergeant beside me on the firing line,
an instructor guiding this gigantic straw onto
my shoulder. Even the small-size uniform
looked ridiculous on me. So I have
the LAW on my shoulder and it feels good.
Not like the M-60, which was like dancing
with a barrel of oil. The LAW was nice.
A little plastic scope pops up, with red lines
and a circle. Downrange, there’s a huge
hunk of metal that looks like a tank.
I take off the front cover, a black plastic cap.
Take off the back cover, another plastic cap.
Both swing free. This thing is like a Pixie Stick
it’s so light. If I’m ever in a war, I am
definitely carrying one of these, I think.
It’s pale green, somewhere between moss
and sand. The instructor loads the thing and now,
it’s a loaded LAW, still not heavy, but lethal.
“Pretend it’s someone you hate,” drill sergeant says.
I’m 17. Firing line clear. Backblast area clear.
Cheek, chin, against the tube. Line up the scopes.
The trigger is under a squishy rubber cap,
not a rifle trigger at all. There’s no one
in the tank. Though I’m sure there was noise,
I don’t remember it. Just the joy of being
on target, some metal crumbling downrange.
Then it was another girl’s turn.
“Did you hit any helicopters?” Dennis asks.
“Don’t be silly,” I say. “They don’t let you
shoot helicopters.” But of course, they do.
Reprinted from Frost in the Low Areas by Karen Skolfield. Copyright © 2013 by Karen Skolfield. With the permission of the publisher, Zone 3 Press.
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Karen Skolfield’s Artist Statement: Karen Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press) won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry. New poems appear in Boulevard, Carolina Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Guernica, Slice, Washington Square Review, and others; Skolfield is an Army veteran and teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.