Ways of Looking at an IED
Notice that in both photographs of the artillery shells there is a wire leading from the bag. Also
notice that the plastic bag had sand thrown on top of it to make it look more like roadside trash.
—1st Infantry Division Soldier’s Handbook to Iraq
Beside the field of potato rows,
Sumey sees an alarm clock
taped to a two-liter bottle. We create
a perimeter, back up the trucks, flatten
the potatoes under tires.
The Explosive Ordnance Disposal team
isn’t sure; when they’re not sure,
they blow it up.
Why don’t you walk over there, Spoon says,
and get yourself a Purple Heart.
With a broom, a woman beats a rug
draped over a clothesline. LT waves her away. Bomb,
bomb, he says, but she shakes her head,
turns her hips to swing again.
Spoon is awarded
the Purple Heart in June
when the shrapnel misses his head,
but the bricks that hide the bomb
knock him unconscious.
When the shell detonates beside our truck,
the sound is too loud to hear; the wind wraps us
with shrapnel, bricks, smoke; the ballistic windshield
shatters; glass on Kenson’s cheek—
blood like smeared lipstick.
For three hours we clear the neighborhood
because of a black plastic bag.
The staff sergeant in the bomb suit
orders everyone to back the fuck up even further.
In the bag he finds six ripe tomatoes.
Sergeant Sumey says he almost vomits
turning in the turret
to see our truck vanish
inside smoke. Thought you were all dead.
We avoid trash, disturbed soil, animal carcasses.
We arrest men
who dig beside the road.
We hate the ground.
Outside the city: rocks stacked
like children’s building blocks.
Sergeant Kenson won’t wait for EOD. It’s nothing,
he yells, and no one can stop him
when he starts to walk;
even LT tries to restrain him, but he walks,
and all four of us in the truck shout,
but it’s no use. When he lifts his leg
to kick the pile,
we look down. We close our eyes.