The Patrol

by William Schuth

The Patrol gathered in the winter light
the thin grey slanting noon light
at the appointed place,
damp cold coating jackets
some wearing caps, some bare-headed

They formed a circle and sat down,
producing from their packs the contents
of a shared meal, the potluck chow always
came before stepping off, the meal
shared with news from home,
politics, and baseball chatter

The fat was chewed along with
the chili, pound cake, and fruit
all mingled with enchiladas,
roasted chicken, peach pie,
recipes traded along with
memories of old C-rats and the
still-lingering aftertaste of MREs
The fat was chewed as

the flurries swirled and eddied
the soft fresh snow fell gently on
the green stacked hills of I Corps,
the quilted rice paddies of II Corps
they fell on the hooches of Long Binh
they billowed outside the windows
of bars on West Colorado Avenue
and laid without melting atop
the hot choking moon dust of Al-Anbar

Dishes stacked and bellies full
the Patrol moved to comfortable chairs
and began to clear the snow
a city plow trundled by the driver
looked at the tan house
blinking when he saw, inside,
a line of young men moving out
under ponchos, jean jackets, and Gore-tex
carrying rifles, packs, notepads, pens, and radios,
leaving tracks in the snow behind them