We Were Not Tired

Paul David Adkins


or what one would call 
exhausted,
waiting for the choppers,

but unhinged
from sleep, disjointed.

We spent our waking hours
sleepwalking.

I wove my way to work,
saluting by reflex.

I read there was a type of tired
resembling hunger. No matter
how much sleep, you wake
more sleepy than before.

I slept on rocks and rucksacks,
cased in my armor,
my rifle resting across my chest,
stiff as a biblical staff.

I dreamed of sleep,
of fresh-made beds,
of cool cots arranged in rows
within a darkened tent.
I dreamed
of sleeping bags unrolled,
canoed and clean.

As the fevered rotors closed on us,
I stirred instead
at gnats drawn to rivulets of sweat,
that confluence of a delta 
on my forehead, cheeks.

It took a sergeant kicking
the soles of my boots
to wake me.

Each blow shook me
like an ax head striking 
the base of a pine tree,
then that slow tipping 
of the trunk,
its thick branches rushing 
to clear the surrounding canopy.

And the nearby birds snapped
like bedsheets in the hands
of a woman
who draped them on a taut line,

pinning them in the sun
of the still morning.


Paul David Adkins

Paul David Adkins

Paul David Adkins lives in New York. In 2018, Lit Riot published his collection Dispatches from the FOB. Journal publications include PleiadesRiver StyxRattleDiodeBaltimore ReviewCrab Creek and Whiskey Island. He has received five Pushcart nominations and two finalist nominations from the Central NY Book Awards. The poetry in Collateral pertains to a sense of disillusionment the author felt after touring Iraq three times and Afghanistan once. As they say in Quebec, "Je me souviens."