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Engineers

                                    Doug Van Gundy


A fully-armored Humvee is a heavy thing,
with a curb weight of ninety-eight-hundred
pounds. Add four soldiers in flak jackets
and boots, and rifles, and that’s another
thousand pounds, give or take, right there.

So when one hits an IED, everything can seem
to happen kind of slowly; the vehicle might jump a few feet
off of the road before settling back to earth, or raise one
wheel high off of the ground like a cartoon elephant
encountering a cartoon mouse.

Of course, the armor that is meant to keep
things out keeps the things that get in, in.
A piece of shrapnel will wear itself out bouncing
around the inside one of those tubs before coming to rest
in an instrument panel, or forearm, or face.

Every one of those machines will be rebuilt
and back on the road as quickly as possible,
swarms of mechanics descending like harvester ants upon them,
hanging new front-ends, putting in new axles,
rewiring the dashboard instruments.

But before any of that can happen, that Humvee
has to be cleaned out. And if Bravo company took the hit while out
on patrol, then Bravo company doesn’t want the grisly business
of hosing out the bits of their buddies: the blood and fingers,
the bone shards and teeth, the unidentifiable chunks.

That job falls to us.

We man the hoses, spray down the insides of these shells,
watch the water run beige-pink into the thirsty desert soil.
We make it all spic-and-span so the mechanics
can do their job, so that Bravo can do their job,
so that we can do our job.

The injured Humvees get towed or flatbedded
to Mantech, the soldiers flown
to Ramstein or Landschtul or Walter Reed
to await their new axles and front ends, to be patched
up and put back out on patrol.


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