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  • Grenade: Origin < OFr. pomme-grenate, and: The Throwing Gap, and: Private, PV2, Private First Class, and: Company B Graduation Booklet: PV2 Skolfield
  • Grenade: Origin < OFr. pomme-grenate
  • Karen Skolfield (bio)

Weight in the hand, inert as a seedwaiting to unlatch, encasementbefore the cleaving, from asleepto awake, from attached to singular,how a seed case splits and revealssuch tenderness but also its power,roots cracking rock, stem shakingthe earth. A seed makes itself known,prepares the earth for its own good work,changes the landscape. Glossy,harboring within, the rounded shapesarcotesta as of the testicle which in itselfmeans witness, embryo like no other,willing to feed upon itself, of varying size,astringency over sweetness.Without tending reverts to its wild form.In mythology, every seed a monthof hell for the mother, the daughter,her daughter's daughtersalong the generations. In every war,the same recognizable hunger.Fruit of the dead, from living to not living,also fruit of fertility, from one to many,the names of the dead ripening.How the arm extends, the palm opens,the red pulp within, the perfect arc.What is sown cannot be called back.We say bearing fruit and it is borne. [End Page 11]

Karen Skolfield

Meet the Author
"I served in the army years ago, and I see so much more nuance and broader implications now than I could at ages seventeen to twenty-four. The poems I've been writing recently have been from dictionary and newspaper headline prompts and responses to military handbooks; they serve as an examination of military culture and poems of witness. What's most surprising are the pockets of brutal, language-based honesty and unexpected beauty I stumble across, especially in the French and Italian words that are the backbone of military terms in English: grenade, bivouac, bayonet, concertina wire, rifle. And further back: war from the Indo-European root to confuse; soldier from the Roman coin solidus, which, in turn, comes from the word for salt, once used as payment (hear the word salary embedded). The language is both rich and horrifying, and it strips away political slant and patriotism—a word with its own deep roots in patriarchy, ownership, and power: words that uphold the status quo instead of implying any true revolution. These poems are my own revolution, even as I understand that revolution gives a linguistic nod to a circular course, one that will be run over and over."

Karen Skolfield's book Frost in the Low Areas won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry (Zone 3 Press). She has received fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, New England Public Radio, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and elsewhere. She teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.

  • The Throwing Gap
  • Karen Skolfield (bio)

Because so many recruits threw like girlswe had to be tested before moving onto live grenades, helmets chalkedwith "P" or "F," or was it "Y" or "N,"was it "XX" which meant bad,"XY" which meant good, with a helmetwho could tell what was being written,chalk in the hand of a man. We willedour arms to be boys, our shouldersbrutal and male, we thought of torsosand hands that had beaten or punchedor strangled or slapped or headlockedwomen that were us or lookedlike us and we wanted that strength.We did not want the tendernesswe saw in certain men. We did not wanttheir baby soothing, pot stirring,backrubbing, dishwashing gestures.If they owned ride-on lawnmowerswe did not want that, nor book readers,nor lovers of cats and wine and appetizers;if they had hobbies let it be catcalling,the gutting and skinning of mammals,the flaying of fish. Let dominion be shownby the men we wanted to be,let pianos be lifted, bench press two bills,let it be football even if the QBwas so often the slightest of them,let any dress shoes languish in the closetuntil Sundays and funerals. Make us malefor this moment, the thickened thorax...


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