Joseph S. Pete's Hot Chow ended after a suicide bomb blast

ripped through the roof of the canvas tent,
after the slaughter of the third-world nationals
imported from Sri Lanka
to dish out tough rubber chicken and ladle soggy green beans
onto flimsy Styrofoam plates
for bare-bones wages,
for barely any remittance to speak of.

Hot chow ceased
after a suicide bomber sprayed malice and ball bearings,
after billowing plumes poured out of the roof,
after so many contractors
and a few in camo
were showered with blistering shrapnel.

Hot chow was over,
The football stadium dome-like chow hall tent was choked with thick smoke
and rivuleted with streams of wet blood.
The dead were dead,
raw meat protruded underfoot.

The turncoat Iraqi policeman, likely a plant all along,
hid Claymores in his flak vest.
He met death in a cafeteria, and brought company,
enlisted a whole procession to ford the River Styx with him.

Carnage consumed the salad bar,
the scrambled eggs station, the plastic trays, everything.
Everything was a haze of fire and smoke.
Everything was gone, wasted in a furious blaze.

A week later,
a New York Times reporter showed up at the FOB.
Nobody back home had cared
about anything going on in Mosul
until then.

Soldiers on the base who weren't there,
who didn't hear the wailing,
witness the ashen expressions,
or behold a dying man's rictus as all around him burned,
complained for the rest of the deployment
about how there was no more hot chow,
about how they had to subsist on cold mouthfuls of MREs
as though it were the greatest injustice in the thankless, uncaring world.

Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio. He was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest 2016, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His literary work and photography have appeared in the Grief Diaries, Gravel, Perch Magazine, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, shufPoetry, the Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, Blue Collar Review, Lumpen, Stoneboat, the Tipton Poetry Journal, Euphemism, Jenny Magazine and elsewhere. Don’t tell anyone he wrote this bio, because that’s like a trade secret or whatever. Joseph S. Pete and Harvey Woodlawn have a new zine out, "Nothing You Are Fighting Exists". For a free copy, email