Casualties / Aaron Graham


In stock


poems by

Aaron Graham

ISBN: 978-1-59948-808-0, 50 pages, $13 (+ shipping)

Release Date: September 8, 2020


Aaron Graham is a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His work has appeared in f(r)iction magazine, Scalawag: A Journal of the South, and Rising Phoenix Press, among others. He served as the editor-in-chief for the Squaw Valley Review, he currently attends UCNG’s MFA program and is finishing his Ph.D. at Emory University. He lives in Greensboro, with the love of his life, Alana, daughters Alexi, Nora, and Naomi and, son, Aaron Jr.

From the front line villages of the Iraq War to the various terrors that exist in the hearts and minds of soldiers and civilians and “enemies” alike in their fragile mortality, this is a vivid book, filled with memorable stories and images, and the wrestling of a soul that writes: “there’s pain in this scar/a picture of suffering sorrow in this scar/a promise of hope in this scar.” Casualties by Aaron Graham shocks the reader alive. ~Stuart Dischell


With his second collection, Aaron Graham joins the ranks of the generation of writers chronicling America’s longest-running war. Casualties bears witness to those soldiers who are both invincible and fragile, who are capable of both violence and tenderness. In other words, like citizens of the country they have sworn to serve and protect, they are human. “The boots on the ground aren’t boots. They’re packs of young me,” the speaker says. They are also us, and Aaron Graham is here to make sure we don’t forget. ~Terry L. Kennedy



The deer in the woods is a buck.
In the woods at dusk, nothing is visible.
The woods are a sometimes father.
At times, a father can become invisible.
But the spiced smell of his Copenhagen longcut
always dribbles over the balcony railings,
whenever he’s decided he’s on the hunt,
whenever deer gather around the wicker furniture
spread across the lawn like fortifications—
defensive emplacements.

The daughter
darts across porches
silently shooing the deer
before they become casualty—
before the father,
who wants to be left alone,
begins the killing of things
to end his loneliness,
or rather—
to release the solitary feeling of death
which sometimes finds him
on the balcony, at dusk
when the flask has gone empty in his hand.





There are times when I wear
my violent acts like a hand knit cap—
a blubber slice of breaching whales—
harpooned and rotting on beaches
on tiki gods’ tongues of kerosene—
the way fire looks, conquering all it touches—

starker parts—the guitar-shaped outline—
each night you came that year
you appeared like summer—
a dream, a torch like kerosene—
what do you know about saving life?
have you had coffee or a last breath spin and sputter—
percolate grounds until Iraqi sand holds your face—
and mortar shells sing like seashells sing

The old lady—
in the plywood armchair
outside her front door
things look—bombed out—
the crumbling to the ruins
hitting the dash of the car
same as the tapes of babies crying
we play to kick off interrogations
I loop mix-tapes of souls drying in the Persian air—
underneath, a man, in Farsi, dots the dialect
a “P” sound… later the “ch” the only gifts
shown the woman—who now says:
I, the old woman, siting in a plywood chair.
sucking on a mandrake root
the way I suck on my lover’s fingers—

no one knows the name of the girl
who buys the dead blood—
trying, once more, to lay
her hand atop her brother’s

she expected America from Marines
then her blood was on me—
I did not bury the Iraqi girl with these two hands—
It was the bullet in her.





The boots on the ground aren’t boots.
They’re packs of young me
out on combat Patrols.
Come, see the valley—
the death-cradle of civilization:
street corners, claymore mines,
DIY daisy chains, and IEDs
built into the fucking road.
Fresh laid blacktop over the ancient alley—
equal parts alligator snapping turtle,
sandstone gape-mouth,
and shrapnel swallow—
a maw expands in arid air
teeth like flame-plumes
scorching gouts—
the shells of men are spit out
with the limbless boys who
whose beautiful bodies collided
on football fields
in Iowa
not six months before.

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