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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.

Published in Hugh Martin Poems

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