Alison Two Bears

THE COMPANY THEY KEEP

They walk in single file thru the dark desert and mountain trails.
Each follows precisely in the footsteps of the others.
There is no sound of their passing, no stone is dislodged
to give a presence to their movements, silently moving ever forward

Ever forward thru the dark night… shadows in the night and
even in the day. Skin burned dark brown by the hostile sun.
Pausing to rest for moments only, their destination lies
ahead and must be reached before the next sunrise.

As the false dawn begins to shed light on the barren terrain
they arrive at their destination and proceed inside.
This is where they call home for now, home here in the burning
hot desert sun they will rest for a day or two.

Then they will again slip out of the semi-safety of their camp
and they will again range far and wide.
They will again gather information about the enemy forces;
Information that will give their command the details needed.

Details to plot counter attacks, to prepare for coming attacks,
Information that will save lives of their brothers and sisters.
As they mount up and prepare for their next patrol
they again feel as if they are being watched.

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: February 17, 2007
Awarded: February 17, 2007
They look around and toward the oncoming darkness.
They use black grease to color their skin to blend
in with the darkness. The feeling of being watched is strong.
They again look around but do not see the Shadows.

They look to their leader and shake their heads in awe;
twice their age and maybe even three times their age;
hard as the granite mountains in the distance and as
tough as old boot leather. He has never left a man.

Like others of his kind in wars long passed, he is
the first in and the last one out. They find comfort
in the knowledge that even if their life they lose,
he will bring them home to their family.

As they quietly gather their gear they see him alone
in the dark talking in a very low tone. They do not see
the Shadows there in the darkness that he speaks with.
Shadows like themselves but somehow different.

They wear the colors of the desert and the granite mountains.
Browns and shades of brown with boots of brown as well.
They wear helmets with night vision and vests of Kevlar.
Those they cannot see are different yet familiar.

They wear suits of greens, greens and blacks and solid black.
They carry odd weapons that date to other wars and other
places and there is a quiet confidence and strength to them.

Their leader calls them together and gives them their mission.
He checks each ones ruck to insure not a sound is made.
He leads them out into the inky blackness of the desert night.
He turns to look to insure all are where they are supposed to be.

Their eyes follow his every movement as his commands he gives
with his hands. They begin to move out and he turns for one last look.
As he turns he sees the ones he’s looking for
and gives a small smile and thumbs up.

The others come from the shadows in the night and form up alongside
those that he leads. They are unaware of the new presence as they
move thru the night; twelve men against the unknown, twelve men
unaware that their shadows are now different than before.

Twelve men whose shadows now are of the past, of a war long
since over. Today the old Shadows merge with the new and
they recall names and places in a dark jungle torn by war.
The old shadows rest beneath the triple canopy.

They were called LRRPS, LRPS, FORCE RECON, RANGERS,
and the darkest Shadows of all, SOG. They were Hammer and
Anvil, Krait and Viper, They were Texas and Maine, and now
they are roused from their endless sleep.

Today the new Shadows walk with the Shadows of another war.
Today this is the company that they keep,

The Company They Keep

Author’s Note: The title “The Company They Keep” is from a book title that I read and I am forever indebted to the author, A.J. Simmons, for this inspiration.