Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from The War Makes Everyone Lonely, the debut collection from Graham Barnhart.
In “Somnambulant,” moments of precision—”white sheets turned down // to standard,” a “perfect perforated line”—contrast with the dizzying dullness of military exhaustion: the body ready, the body worn down. Barnhart, a veteran who served as an Army Special Forces medic, creates a tense world that burns into memory.
The barracks was Army-green wool
and white sheets turned down
to standard, six inches below the pillow,
a perfect perforated line
across every gray bunk frame
to the gray lockers lining the walls
and blocking the windows.
At night, the moon passed
through seams between the lockers,
flashing like a film reel
if you walked the dark room
fast enough. Now and then
on fire watch, when you were walking,
and the moon was flashing,
and the sheets were disheveled
by the sleepers, someone might jump
to attention, for some dreamt of
drill sergeant screaming.
I told her all of this when she found me
standing in the bedroom doorway.
Just order me back to bed.
We’ll laugh about it in the morning
—she laughed then too.
From The War Makes Everyone Lonely by Graham Barnhart. © 2019 by The University of Chicago. Reproduced by permission.