Combat Photographer

-For Stacy Pearsall and all the shooters who have seen what can never be unseen

A shutter click in combat is deafening.

Light and shadow—boxed up like muted souls—

Cheap imitations of what once was.

Click-open—Click-close. Click-open—Click-close.

Life measured in frames per second

And moments, irreconcilable in time.

Invisible bullets snapping air overhead.

Pockmarked scars on buildings are reflections.

The shutter finger presses closed an artery

That paints eyes in blinding crimson—click-open.

Screaming light pours in, begging for the sound ...

All is quiet in a blown exposure.

Disquieted eyes track blood trails behind

Toward a sun-swallowed silhouette, wandering

Dazed in the distance, where colors bleed

Across the horizon. The shutter clicks again, and

Shadows are all that remain.

The lost and formless frames of war,

The painful echoes of the voiceless—

There are no explanations in these images.


Combat Photographer was published in Returning Soldiers Speak: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry by Soldiers and Veterans.