Poem of the Week | July 08, 2019

This week’s Poem of the Week is “In the Lead Humvee on MSR Tampa” by Zachary Lunn!

Zachary Lunn served two combat tours in Iraq as a medic with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. After the Army he earned an MFA from North Carolina State University where he was awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize. His stories, essays, and poems appear in Slate, Oxford American, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. Lunn was recently a runner-up in our 2018 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize contest and his poetry is featured in 42.1 Collisions.


In the Lead Humvee on MSR Tampa

There is nothing like
through sunburnt desert,

scanning blistered earth
for signs of the thing that will
peel the skin off your

bones. Nothing like
the hot silence
of four sweating men,

high on caffeine;
quiet so deep
you can hear the bomb

whisper your name like a
call to prayer.
There is nothing like

there is nothing you can do.
It’s a little like your first love,

the way you know how
things will end
before the dust settles,

before she sloops towards you
in her smoldering
black gown.


Author’s Note

I keep a running list in my head of the unique experiences I faced as a combat medic in Iraq, things I might write about. This poem came from that list. I don’t know if the lead vehicle of a combat patrol is statistically more likely to be hit by an IED, but I do know it feels a lot more dangerous being in the front. Every truck behind you literally follows in your tracks because it’s been proven safe (until it isn’t, at least). It’s such a singular feeling that I felt I couldn’t compare it to anything else, so that became part of the poem and got me writing. The ending was a surprise, but a delightful one. I also used “sloop” as a verb which is totally made up but just sounded right.