Hai-Dang Phan

Small Wars

It was my turn to play dead, so I zipped up my flight suit
and monkeyed into the cockpit. Larry, Tobias, and Tim formed
the commando unit. Alfredo got the shaft again and played Charlie
all by himself. Wasting no time, they slipped back into the woods
like ghost soldiers and waited for the signal. Sunlight saturation bombed
the forest floor. I pulled the pin on the smoke grenade, tossed it
under a tremendous wing, then slumped over my aircraft like a limp ragdoll.
In minutes, the shooting began. All hell broke loose, as planned.
Someone sprayed blanks into the enemy trees, laying cover for the others.
I could hear the branches and twigs snapping under the boots of my rescuers.
Someone radioed for helicopters and Phantom jets that would never materialize.
Pinecones dropped from great invisible heights. Black smoke seeped
into my shut eyes and blood rushed to my head and dangling arms.
A giant cicada singed the air with its emergency song, too late too late.
When I came to, the stars in my dream jungle burned like sodium flares.

Hai-Dang Phan was born in Vietnam and raised in Wisconsin. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Lana Turner, NOÖ Journal, Barrow Street, and elsewhere.

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