what makes the green grass grow

‘Soldiers, what makes the green grass grow?’
‘Blood, blood, blood, Drill Sergeant!’
– popular US Army training chant before deployment to Iraq

cut grass, cut the

sentiment. but bug-eyed faces poke
glaring from between upended earth

dolls left buried by the kids that used to
live here but have since left buried

as some television ad for trouble elsewhere
poor kids hummed in a bloodless bubble

the boy who bucketed the dust before the café
is a facebust off an IED and

they will not haunt me, those nameless
traces in the marked earth, ploughed in

by the season. we’re tearing the terror
at the roots, burying spined seeds that blow

i came to spatter earth with the blood
of a few unrelated men, not this blood

that sits awake on a bathroom wall
in the tiled privacy where no grass grows

that blacks into the blankets they used
to wrap the bodies like the bodies of dogs

that blisters easy to the surface of their
broken mouths, barking in that dumb tongue

that soaks into my untrained sleeves
and burns like the lull of fallow guns

i am home now, these are dreams
and i am safe here, the lawnmower

has no memory. in a bright garden
the dust can’t haunt me, grass clips

that dead sentiment can’t haunt me
see, the formation of unhaunted men

waiting for the veteran psych, more pills,
dream seeds to plant in soiled mouths

no grass grows in the desert where
no soil lies still and nothing’s sown

blood waters only blood and my throat
is dry, my cup

(cross-posted at walking and falling)

Jennifer Mills

Jennifer Mills was Overland fiction editor between 2012 and 2018. Her latest novel, The Airways, is out through Picador.

More by Jennifer Mills ›

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