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Category archive for: Hugh Martin

The War Was Good, Thank You

       —In the college cafeteria, a freshman girl asks, So, how was the war?

1.

We live in small steel hooches

shaped like boxcars. We fill bags

with sand and sweat

to pile beside us. Our rifles collect dust

when we sleep. Our rifles collect dust

when we fire them.

2.

In Jalula, I stood in the turret, hands

on the Fifty. I looked over mud walls and fences

into backyards, alleyways. A man

and a woman backed from a doorway; I watched them

through dark sunglasses and the sight aperture.

They kissed, then turned—they saw me. The man smiled,

as if wanting me to keep it a secret. I didn’t tell anyone.

3.

Some afternoons, I lay outside shirtless

and set ice cubes

on my closed eyelids. I let them melt.

4.

After weddings, people point rifles

to the sky, and fire,

as if wanting to put holes

through heaven.

5.

Groups send care packages. There’s always so much

ChapStick, baby wipes; we pile it in boxes

or throw it to the children. I spoil myself

with ChapStick, balm my lips

even when it’s not needed. Outside the wire,

I raise my chin to the sun, flex

my lips, kiss them together, not afraid

of anything, not afraid at all.

from The Stick SoldiersFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Home from Iraq, Barking Spider Tavern

       —Cleveland, Ohio

Outside on the smoker’s patio,

the Army vet shakes my hand

for the twentieth time, yells

about loyalty, country, duty.

Between gulps, he explains his shame

for missing the Storm—

a bum knee, ten thousand

beers later, and now, another war

to miss. We finish the cans,

throw them at a wall, crack new ones.

The summer sweat sticks to his face

and in his eyes is the horror

of not going, that he’d live

all his life having to say no,

blaming a bum knee,

hitting it hard with a palm

to punish it.

He shakes my hand again,

grabs my shoulder,

and then seems to want to kiss me,

suck out whatever was left

since he wanted to taste it so badly.

from The Stick SoldiersFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Nocturne, Traffic Control Point

In armor, sweat, and skin, I sat

in the Humvee’s shell of steel.

Miles of traffic moved down the freeway,

north to Baghdad, engines shaking,

vehicles blurring against

pavement-heat ghosts.

A white car curved left, leapt the curb,

and came at us like the line of a bullet.

Jenkins traversed the 240, there were shouts

and shots—then I hovered high

above the roaring earth

on an orange bed of smoke

when the man’s body, gone at the torso,

twisted toward me, flailing out

his thin, dead arm, like he wanted

to hold my hand.

from The Stick SoldiersFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

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