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Jill McDonough

Rocket Man Had It Coming

Lt. Col. Matt J. Martin: Predator: The Remote-Control Air War over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot’s Story

The Rocket Man had it coming. The old man did not. We train our lasers on one guy, another guy gets got. I was unable to determine whether or not he got up,

I said, knowing if I didn’t see him move, the old guy’s shot. Nobody means for it to, but sometimes shit happens: one guy has it coming, another does not.

We hover and hover. We wait while we watch. We look and we analyze and then take the shot. I was unable to determine whether or not he got up.

Civilians think it doesn’t matter, like the robot erases guilt, our shitty mistakes. Nope: we’re stuck knowing Rocket Man had it coming, but the old man did not.

I’m not clear on what we’re trying to do there, what our job is, how what we do here can help make it stop. So much unable, more can’t determine. Like if he got up.

Actually, that I’m pretty clear on. Also that we stopped the guy trying to shoot our buddies down. That guy got shot. Rocket Man had it coming. The old man did not. I was unable to determine whether or not he got up.

Stoning the Drone

The MQ-1 Predator carries the Multi-spectral Targeting System: electro-optical, infrared. Laser designator, illuminator. It can see and hit its target from miles away. The Air Force and the CIA both use them, but no one’s claimed the one brought down last week. An RPG? An error? Something took five million dollars’ worth of our tech down so you can see, on YouTube, Afghans gathered around it, laughing, throwing stones. The young guy filming circles children, shows some men approach, but not too close. Then, seconds in, you start to hear the thunk of rock against the hull, which makes him laugh: oh, ho! The way we joke Oh HO, my friend. Ho, SHIT. God DAMN. The only word I understand is drone. Our cameraman laughs, amazed—the witch is dead! Now everybody’s throwing stones. Dust rises up from kids’ missed throws: we hear their Pashto dag!s. Cameraman shows the stony ground; his glitchy shadow staggers around. His happiness contagious, his point of view so clear. His friend, a grinning older man, reaches, takes the camera, gets him in the frame. For a moment all we see is hands, their lined palms, then bright light of lens turned clumsily to sun. Then there’s our guy, beside the drone he’s caught on film. Posing, proud, like every kid by every science project. They’re throwing rocks as if it’s over now, as if they got The One True Drone, as if it hurts us back.

Code Names

“By design, this unprecedented expansion was invisible to the American people.” –Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State

ABOVE BOARD. CLEAR QUEST. ABLE ALLY, ALLIED ACTION. JUST CAUSE. EVEN STEVENS.

BRAVE HERO, EAGLE SCOUT, CLEAN HUNTER. PROJECT GRACE. NOBLE EAGLE; CREDIBLE DOVE.

CLUSTER FORTUNE, BONUS DEAL, GLORY TRIP. FAT CAT, GANGSTER, PRIVATEER. FAST TALK.

CRAZY HAWK, TWISTEDPATH. GRISLY HUNTER. DULL KNIFE.

EPIC FURY.

HEART ACHE.

FACE IT.

The winner of a 2014 Lannan Literary Fellowship and three Pushcart prizes, Jill McDonough is the author of Habeas Corpus (Salt, 2008), Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens, 2012), and Where You Live (Salt, 2012). The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and Stanford’s Stegner program, she taught incarcerated college students through Boston University’s Prison Education Program for thirteen years. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Slate, The Nation, The Threepenny Review, and Best American Poetry. She directs the MFA program at UMass-Boston and 24PearlStreet, the Fine Arts Work Center online.

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