Commentary: Armistice Day v Veterans Day, Karen Skolfield

Machine Guns and Other Toys

It seems everyone is fighting but no one wants to admit it. A friend on Facebook marks herself “safe” during her country’s most recent uprising, of which there’s barely a footnote in the news. The site bootcamp4me: the “gross stuff” of tear gas training, sleeplessness “real fun, huh,” a furious and fast experience. The comfort of typos. Confidence building, battle buddies, a pair of the ugliest glasses ever, but they’ll never break, which is good, ‘cause you’re gonna push yourself to the max. You’ll hear acronyms you never knew existed. After some time you’ll get to throw live hand grenades at a pile of dirt. Character is the foundation for all you can become. The United States Army, bless ‘em, so vast and multi-leveled. I won’t spoil the fun for you, except: Memorable! Machine guns and other toys! High-octane! High ropes, the kind civilians have to pay to do! Already the division between soldier and other. Hints at going to the Sand Box, but not where that might be.

Karen Skolfield’s book Battle Dress (W. W. Norton, 2019) won the Barnard Women Poets Prize. Her book Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press) won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry, and she is the winner of the 2016 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in poetry from The Missouri Review. Skolfield is a U.S. Army veteran and teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.