Poem: "Minefields" By Kyle Dargan

"Many men are booby traps. You think you're picking up a song, a shield, or a heart, then, lo and behold, there's a man inside."

Remember that men don’t behave as they do in the movies—you won't hear a click or generally catch any caution before the man is activated. Men may be encased in cloth, plastic, or their mere tufted hide, so a metal detector won't necessarily alert you. Be mindful of withholding speech when you are in a manned area. The frequencies of your silence may cause certain types of men to detonate. If other men are present, the detonation of one man may set off a chain reaction. Areas experiencing armed conflict are clearly high-risk, but men remain dangerous long after the cessation of hostilities. Though you can't count on manned areas being marked, heed warning signs—often, but not always, red. And they rarely say "MEN" or "DANGER." Where signs aren’t present, improvised warnings are often used, such as blood-crusted smiles (indicating a crossed boundary), untouched SAFE kits, torn blouses quilted into flags, hair tied to trees. Never assume a recently “cleared” area is safe. Man removal is a difficult and tricky process. It's not unusual for men to remain in an area that has officially been cleared. One reason for this is that men buried in the ground for a long time may sink substantially. Men can't be buried in roads paved for dialogue. Keep in mind, however, that men may be wedged in potholes, or tripwires tied to men on the periphery may be drawn across those roads. Should you suspect that you have entered a manned area—either because you see warning signs, you see a man or potential man, or because a detonation occurs—keep your wits and carefully retreat from danger by backing into your own footsteps. If you can't see your footprints to backtrack, move forward little by little. You'll need to probe the ground for men—probe the ground very carefully. Use your hands or feet. Use your pen or knife. Probe at an angle rather than straight down, since men are easily detonated by top-down pressure. Be wary of picking up anything. Many men are booby traps. You think you're picking up a song, a shield, or a heart, then, lo and behold, there's a man inside. Even god-vows and children are used as bait. Rule one of keeping your thumbs: if you didn't drop it, don't pick it up. If you find yourself the leader in a situation, you'll have to coach every member of your troupe on how to exit a manned area safely. Make sure you’re all talking, that you’re on the same page, because one wrong move could get everyone killed.

Kyle Dargan is the author of four poetry collections, all published by the University of Georgia Press. His work has been recognized with the Cave Canem Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and has been a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He lives in Washington, D.C. where he directs creative writing at American University. More information about his projects can be found at www.american-boi.com.

Skip to footer