National Poetry Month Day 17: “Brandon Bryant: MQ-1 Predator Sensor Operator” by Jill McDonough

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Brandon Bryant: MQ-1 Predator Sensor Operator

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He lives in Montana now. Talks to German magazines, plus
Canadian radio shows. He coaches soccer, still has to tell us

everything. How it works, how many screens. How many fly
one drone. Fourteen, and two. He marks targets, the other guy

sends the Hellfire. The room is dark, he saw too much, wished
his eyes would rot. He tried to talk, got hushed,

got told to just shut up and color. He says We saw an eye.
What’s an eye? Bad guys light a tire on fire,

soften the blacktop, bury a bomb. And the cool
metal, hot asphalt would make sort of an eye. “Was it clear to you

that there was a loss of life?
How many people died

that day, Brandon? What was that like for you?” So I hate
the Canadian radio host, but he’s the only way

to hear this. Streaming, next to “Saskatchewan Weekend,”
next to “Canada Reads.” Five and I never wanted to see that happen again.

To see that happen, or this: around the building a small human body runs
around the corner to where the front

of the building to where the door was. The missile
connects and the building collapses, crumbles, and there’s nothing, no little

body. I look at the pilot and asked, was that a person, was that
a kid? And he’s like Yeah, I think it was. And we asked, we have this chat

program that we can communicate with other entities that are involved
and we asked and the person was like no it was a dog. It was a dog.

But it wasn’t a dog, and he knows that:
Every horror witnessed. I wish my eyes would rot.

-Jill McDonough

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Pushcart prize winner Jill McDonough’s first book, Habeas Corpus, was published in 2008. Two more books of poems, Where You Live and Oh, James! will come out this year. The recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the Library of Congress and elsewhere, she directs 24PearlStreet, the online writing program of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.


From time to time, The Rumpus publishes new poems. Check out this multimedia collection of poetry we've published. More from this author →