“Musings of a Tower Jockey” by Bruce Golden

The whine of a straining engine,
The jolt of a familiar rut in the road,
Bodies sway and strain for balance
Each time the road curves
And the truck’s tires slide.
Someone’s steel pot
Batters aimlessly about.
There’s a new face among us,
His expression taut with fear,
Eyes wide in disbelief
As the truck swerves
Around another corner.
He hasn’t yet learned
To be unafraid of the knowledge
That the driver is stoned,
Or drunk,
Or just plain pissed.

A jarring stop.
I jump out.
A facsimile in green fatigues
Walks by without greeting.
I pass through barbed wire,
Pull the gate,
Snap the lock,
Glance up at steel girders,
Wooden planks,
And begin to climb.
On top I shed my ammo belt,
Drop my helmet and M16,
And squat on the sheet metal floor.

How many hours
Have I perched on that chilly surface,
Squinting at paperbacks
Smuggled under my shirt;
Or hunted for roaches among the dust
To roll a number;
Or read the bitter graffiti
Scrawled on walls
Battered by angry rifle butts and boots;
Or slept away the time
Knowing a rock thrown to the catwalk
Would be my alarm?

Better the fantasy of dreams
Or words
Or weed
Than time spent wondering
The reality or reason
Of my position,
Standing watch high above the world
In my tower,
Overlooking bunkers
Of bombs and missiles
In a foreign land,
And watching for the enemy.


Bruce Golden has published short stories and poems across nine countries, including in Pedestal, Postscripts, and Digital Science Fiction. Asimov’s Science Fiction‘s book reviewer said about his novel, Evergreen, “If you can imagine Ursula Le Guin channeling H. Rider Haggard, you’ll have the barest conception of this stirring book, which centers around a mysterious artifact and the people in its thrall.”
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