On the Road to Basra

by Bill Glose

Fleshy nubs wriggle on the boy’s elbows,
forearms lost in stony plains of Al-Amarah
by a mine meant for Revolutionary Guards

then forgotten like the way he used
to twirl hair at the back of his neck
when he was three. Behind him

Saddam smiles on a sandstone wall, chest
festooned with medals. He doesn’t realize
his face is pockmarked with bullet holes

and splashes of paint black as dried blood.
In the dusty courtyard, sandals kick a soccer ball.
One child breaks free from the scrum, dribbles

toward the crippled goalkeeper. The ball
sails past flailing stubs then bounces
back from the wall. Clapping elbows

together, the boy yells a taunt. Half-arms
dance above his head and he sets his jaw
as if to say, Is that all you’ve got?

Bill Glose is the author of the poetry collections The Human Touch (San Francisco Bay Press, 2007) and Half a Man (FutureCycle Press, 2013). In 2011, he was named the Daily Press Poet Laureate. His poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Narrative Magazine, Chiron Review, and Poet Lore.