Señor Higareda taught us “Ojalá”
in seventh-grade Español, along with
our hasta luegos and our hasta mañanas,
some twenty-one years before the
Twin Towers fell, and still more before the day
that Saber2th slipped a well-intended “Inshallah”
into the end of an operations brief
7,000 miles from home.
Something clicked in that moment. Went off like a land mine.
“No! No ‘Inshallah!’” the Afghan officers lit up and
sputtered like fuzes at their men. “You! Will! Be! There! On! Time!”
Ojalá … Inshallah … Doesn’t even matter
when we try to talk the same babble. Some things don’t translate.
One man’s wish
turns out to be another man’s oath,
and yet another’s promise
likely to be broken.
The best we can say is that each requires
a willing divinity, and a belief in tomorrow.
So help us, God.
Repita, por favor.
Randy Brown embedded with his former Iowa Army National Guard unit as a civilian journalist in Afghanistan, May-June 2011. A 20-year veteran with a previous overseas deployment, he subsequently authored the poetry collection Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire (Middle West Press, 2015). His poetry and non-fiction have appeared widely in literary print and on-line publications, including Stone Canoe, Drunken Boat, F(r)iction, and So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. As ‘Charlie Sherpa,’ he blogs about military culture at www.redbullrising.com, and about military-themed writing at www.aimingcircle.com.