“Third Platoon Learns Cover & Concealment” by Karen Skolfield
Our hair smelled of canvas and green.
Alexis sat cross-legged and touched
my cheekbone with one finger.
She paused as she scanned my face:
“light in the valleys, dark on the hills.
I swear, you look good in green.”
I wove leaves into her helmet, tried
to stay still and shivered as she softened
the lines from brown to green.
We learned to move like shadows.
Muzzles pointed into the brush,
our small blackened hands flashed signals –
enemy ahead, take cover. Alexis
appeared beside me, whispered
“we’re setting up an ambush.”
Three women melted into the brush
on my right and panted slowly,
half drowsing in the June heat,
their eyes blinking beneath the leaves.
I wanted to tell her green could be painful,
how the ripeness of forests could crumble to earth.
Her hand rested inches from mine. Around us,
the smell of leaf mold curtained the forest,
and we waited for rain, or the footsteps of women.
“Third Platoon Learns Cover & Concealment” reprinted from Battle Dress: Poems. Copyright © 2019 by Karen Skolfield. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
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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.