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
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