—In the college cafeteria, a freshman girl asks, So, how was the war?
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.
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.
Some afternoons, I lay outside shirtless
and set ice cubes
on my closed eyelids. I let them melt.
After weddings, people point rifles
to the sky, and fire,
as if wanting to put holes
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
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on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.