The Giants of Kandahar

Anna Cates

The Giants of Kandahar

    “During the war, many members of the US Military and Coalition
    would encounter activity that would defy normality . . . UFOs,
    cryptids and ghosts. Many bore witness to the immense and
    immeasurable mystery of Afghanistan. What they witnessed is often
    kept close to the heart, be it terrifying or truly something incredible.”
    —Military Times, Oct 31, 2022

Could it be that the locals
didn’t have the words in English?
Could it be that they knew
we’d never believe the truth?

Shahr-e Ghloghola,
dark as that day on Golgotha,
the City of Screams, where Genghis Khan
ordered the massacre of all the living:
Specters lend their disembodied voices
to the air—jinn—or could it be the groaning
gears of advanced ancient technology
in the Kingdom of Graveyards,
City of Woe, where roamed
(and perhaps still live in caves)
giants with crimson hair, six-digited limbs,
who rip apart with gnarled nails
American soldiers and devour them?

Too monstrous to be true?
Yet might some ancient Goliath
survive in a stasis chamber,
deep within some hollow,
leaching from a time/space anomaly,
a well warping every second,
looping single moments over and over?

Of old, Sundara Vimana pilots rode
electromagnetic gravity fields,
four wheels whirling like Ezekiel’s vision—
a lingering mystery confounding
the Marines’ plagued mission?

Strange lights glimmered in a nebulous sky
and sudden drafts of cold air turned
summer nights from hot to freezing,
inexplicably, and scents of rotten flesh
accosted the soldiers’ senses continually.
What were these paranormal disturbances?
Idle imaginations of incompetent men?

Was there not a tunnel
leading to a chamber?
A shrine cluttered with human bones?
Strange static on the radio?
An invisible presence
always watching?
Phantom voices, so clear,
some discerned words in Russian,
cries of the unlucky dead
lost in futile physical conflict—
the doubly doomed
unclean spirits
lurking at the portal,
panting at the mouth hole.
Dr. Anna Cates teaches college and graduate level writing, literature, and education online. She has published a variety of books (poetry, fiction, and drama) through,,, and Her full-length poetry collection Love in the Time of Covid won an Illumination Book Award. She resides in Wilmington, Ohio with her two beautiful kitties.

Author’s Backstory and/or Crafting: The Giants of Kandahar” began when YouTube featured an interesting video that told the story behind this poem. I was fascinated, watched the video several times, and conducted a little supplementary research to derive at the poem. I wanted to write a formless, free verse, speculative poem, and I wanted a longer poem of at least 50 lines, which accounts for some of the shorter lines.

Editor’s Comments and/or Image Credits: The image is taken from the same or similar article referenced in the epigraph []

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