Gerardo Mena

Ode to the Enemy Sniper

Searching for your defining
moment, you’ve come to dance
in our little war. Life is nothing
more than a turn

of the windage knob, a slight
adjustment for distance, a tight
lungful of breath, a sight
bearing black reticle,

that crosshair etched into your lens
like a crucifix, reaching for the edges
of your omniscient circle, a transfer
of kinetic energy from man,

to machine, to man. The word
Dragunov strikes fear into your enemies,
but in you it triggers
the ancient sentiment that sparks

wars among men; and so you aim
steady, you squeeze slowly, propelling
your projectile toward the anatomical
plexus that turns off the world.

A different version of “Ode to the Enemy Sniper” appears in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2012).

The Spent

It seems so long ago since we spilt
our bloom, sculpted our sleep
around the impact of ricochets
into powdered dust, cried out Mene Mene
as we waded into the Tigris

to recover bodies. This is not
the first time I have spoken
of this. And each time the story grows
less. Grows thin. Each time I end
with a sigh, the only honest breath

from my lungs, borne of a lexicon of light
breathing, these tiny learned exhalations
covering the holes that now stipple
my stories—that have displaced
those moments when I cried out: forgive me

Gerardo Mena is a decorated Iraqi Freedom veteran. He spent six years in Spec Ops with the Reconnaissance Marines and was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal with a V for Valor for multiple acts of bravery. He has won several awards, has twice been nominated for a Pushcart, and was selected for Best New Poets 2011. For more information go to