the retreat from al alamein


rommelrommel knew he lost north africa

for whatever the reason: stalingrad,

montgomery, a few tanks of fuel


o’ for a few tanks of fuel


he stared at the sea as the afrika korps

sowed devil’s gardens

in coral sand behind him


intricate plantings


that when they bloomed they unmade men,

and strung them on trellises of barbed wire

in neat rows like marionettes


he took a deep breath


considered the desert laid out to the sea

said a prayer to gods of his father

for his men and his country


he did not mention his boss


the field marshal knew loving gods

can’t choose sides. he prayed for montgomery,

alexander, stumme, and bastico, too, and their soldiers


the fight already ended


on a hill beneath skies at tel el-eisa,

there are no sides, good or bad,

just desert and sea, scorpions and gulls


and men asleep in ossuaries, vaults full of stars