CONTESTED TERRAIN captures the myriad identities inside a veteran shaped by birth, geography and, later,
a set of experiences that belie any hand-me-down wisdom. "Cave Country" sees the green, fertile surface
give way as the illusion collapses beneath the speaker's feet; in "Desert Skies," a barrage of war images
it faster than the speaker can process them; and "Returning to the Hill Country" shows the altered
landscape, both physical and mental, that awaits his return. The final section, "A Handful of Dust" shifts
from the individual to the culture of fear that has become a new, uncomfortable normal. Gray's speakers
still believe that beauty exists-often in an uneasy coexistence with tension, hypervigilance,
and an ever-changing consciousness.