“The Case for Zakir” - Kenyon Review online | Spring 2019
To me, the problem with Special Immigrant Visas for interpreters occurs at this very premise: the State Department conducts the program as a matter of refugee policy. Zakir is treated like a refugee fleeing political violence, with the added caveat that he served in the vicinity of American soldiers. This approach misses the point completely. Zakir’s situation is not a matter of refugee affairs but of veteran affairs. Zakir is an American veteran. He wore an American uniform. He rode in American vehicles. The American military issued him an American weapon. He lived, ate, and slept, not just among American soldiers but as an American soldier. Zakir was not just part of the infantry; he and the interpreters like him are its voice, and to separate them from the units they lived with is both arbitrary and absurd, and our commitment to the absurdity is literally killing them.
“To Fling Forward in a Certain Way” - Solidago | Spring 2018
Part of the army’s physical fitness test happened to be a two-mile run, and at this I was already pretty good. I understood the two-mile. I knew how fast every lap needed to be. I knew what my legs and lungs were capable of, and what they might be capable of, and what they were not capable of. Curiously, three years later, I would be promoted to sergeant, having accrued more promotion points than guys who had deployed and who had taken actual leadership training. I earned a lot of my promotion points on the fitness test. That is to say, I was given a fire team to lead in Afghanistan partly because I was good at running.
"Against the River" - ENTROPY | Spring 2018, "On Weather"
I cut my hair, shaved off whatever shitty goatee I’d tried out, cleaned my uniform, found my beret, my patrol cap, my dog tags, stayed sober for a couple nights in a row, and tried to remember a few basic things about what soldiers did. If my uniform looked correct and I could recite a few technical details about the M-4 and the M-249, I was pretty much a soldier.
"Beside the Point" - Print-Oriented Bastards | Spring 2017
Forthcoming in the anthology Why We Write: Craft Essays on Writing War from Middle West Press.
When a sergeant told his guys, Pay attention to goddamn detail, what he was really saying was, Pay attention to goddamn everything, which was a lot to ask.
"Playing Zombies" - Pinball | Issue 13 | 2017
The game wasn’t advancing toward any larger goal except to reach the next wave, so any wave could doom the players but no particular one was the most important or the most supremely difficult. And none was final. It wasn’t about defeating the great villain at the end. It was about stamina, about who would relent first.
"The Trouble With Ceremony" - The Georgia Review | Spring 2017
I worried that soldiers reflected back to the people of a democracy what that democracy was choosing to do in other countries on their behalf, and I didn’t want any civilians exerting control over that reflection. I worried the reporter was trying to tease out a cozier image, and I hated that. I didn’t want civilians permitting each other to feel any cozier whatsoever about the things being done on their behalf.
"Of Creativity" - War, Literature & the Arts | Volume 28 | 2016
The person who affixed the bomb hoped to make the fuel perform this terrible explosion in the immediate vicinity of the young American men who guarded the invisible line. Americans who stood at the border and searched the vehicles, who held rifles and wore sunglasses. And who were extremely unwelcome in this part of Asia. In order to notify the men that they were unwelcome, someone decided to make a trailer full of flammable material explode right in front of them.
"The Road to Kama Daka" - Ninth Letter | Fall/Winter 2016-17, Vol. 13 no. 2
Each part of the machine was designed by a past violence. We had the jamming device because insurgents had learned to use cell phones to remote detonate their explosives. We had a tall cage around the outside of the truck to protect us from rocket-propelled grenades. The cage was made of steel nets to explode the grenades before they reached the exterior armor, to allow some clearance from the blast. The underbelly was V-shaped to deflect away an impact. We were experiencing and hurting and adapting. And as we adapted, we wrote our history into the technology itself.
"The Middle Stone" - BOAAT | Sept/Oct 2016 Issue
He responded in English: I am donkey pilot.
"Education" - Pembroke Magazine | Volume 48
Teaching mixed martial arts to members of the National Guard means entertaining a rather specific and improbable scenario: a Guard unit has been deployed to a combat zone, and they are on a mission of some kind, outside the wire, and the mission goes absolutely to shit. They are taking fire in a really extreme way. A soldier becomes separated from the group. He doesn’t have his rifle for some reason. He dropped it, or a bad guy wrestled it away from him and the rifle skidded a short distance, eight inches beyond his reach, like in a movie.
"About the Days" - Moss | Issue 1.3, June 2015
We found our battle rhythm, but you can’t find one rhythm without affecting another. The one you affect is the rhythm of your body: the circadian. A rhythm we only notice when it breaks. A word we only use to describe when it’s lost. When we are trying to find it again.
"Notes on the Trip" - The Common | Dispatches | May 2015
We spent five days there, then took a C-130 to Jalalabad in the middle of the night. It was always the middle of the night. It was never almost morning.
"What Was True Then" - Passages North blog | Writers on Writing | April 2015
The previous platoon here did most of the digging on the bunker where he sleeps, but Steve dug a little further so it was large enough to bring a cot inside, and when he’s off duty he lies on the cot and puts on a headlamp and he reads. He dug a shelf into the side of the bunker where he keeps the book. It’s a hardcover with a dust jacket. The dust jacket is smeared with actual dust.
"Mountain Dogs" - Referential Magazine | Summer 2014
A mother and her puppy are playing on a mountaintop in Afghanistan. Nudging and running, pouncing in the darkness. The dogs are silhouettes on the screen of a thermal camera. Their bodies in motion are radiant whiteness, and the glow they make actually exists; I have not given it to them.
"Room Where the Story Is Told" - Small Print Magazine | Summer 2014
In the corner of the living room among some old children’s books there is a toy horse. The horse is made of a green plastic head attached to a straight wooden pole that represents the horse’s body. The side of the head features the design of a revolver, like the horse belongs to a cowboy. The butt of the revolver protrudes from the head so that the gun is a way of holding on.
"Walls Made of Earth" - Gravel | October 2013
Every day as I shaved I wished abstractly that I’d invested money in these walls before the war had started. With enough manpower you could raise them anywhere. Eight feet high, four feet thick, full of dirt, good barriers against gunfire and explosives. There were people somewhere drooling with richness thanks to a decision they made nine years ago, and while shaving I wished I’d been one of them. I wished that I’d been a fourteen-year old with miraculous financial foresight.
"The Desert is Neutral" - Southeast Review | Volume 31.1 | April 2014
I don’t know how things started to change, or what about the kids’ behavior or our increasing time spent in country made us stop giving them things, and the change further from not giving them things to yelling at them, cursing them, the change to screaming at them to get the goddamn fuck away from our fucking trucks, Za! Za! (Go, as in, away) Za, you motherfuckers, but a change certainly occurred.
"The God Creators" - North American Review | Spring 2013
No one posed or even looked particularly cool, so the picture didn’t feel like a picture; it felt like a real human moment recorded at eye level into your memory. Like you were standing there, like you were watching, like they acknowledged you there too, and eventually you remember being there. You were there all along. The room smelled like standing water. You felt out of the group but so did everyone.
"Noir" - DIAGRAM | Issue 12.6 | December 2012
The novel is not just unread but dying. Television shot it, I guess. Obliterated its heart with buckshot. Doctors on television tried to resuscitate the novel using a pair of clean, white heart-thumpers that looked to you like clothing irons. The doctors even went Clear! to make sure everyone was ready. Thumped the non-thumping heart. Taught it to thump back. The short story is dying. The album is dying. The hospital is crowded. The doctors have interesting personal lives and difficult, complicated problems in the area of love. Emergency medical situations tend to metaphorically correspond to those in the difficult, complicated area of love. Watch closely for heart transplants. I am not lonely I swear. I wouldn't even think it.