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At Ease

                                    Kevin Boyle


Everything proceeded according to plan, so that
when the solider whose hand had been rendered useless
returned, the people lined the wrappered streets and applauded,
and when the soldier who raped the girl in a crater
appeared in court, the judge took his mallet and slammed it,
and for the dead soldier’s funeral—his body
mainly a uniform—the high-school gym filled to capacity
long before the game, and prayers were said at church
and in homes and on-line for the female soldier who stopped
believing during her second tour, and for the lieutenant colonel
who believed in the mission, his wife had her breasts enlarged,
and for the red and orange trays in the mess hall, the trees
in Vermont leafed out, and because of the long line of prosthetic advances,
men moved out and went door-to-door, butting down
what wouldn’t open, and by thirteen hundred hours
the men who could barely vote with their feet, voted for wheelchair ramps
from their apartments in Oklahoma to Walter Reed in DC,
and for the men whose heads were severed,
the children made Valentines in the third/fourth
combined grades of the county, and they were shipped
with men in C-140s who passed the word frag
up and down the aisles until word arrived from the cockpit
that those on the left-hand side of the plane could see
Mecca and those on the right the Wailing Wall.
And for the eight boys who liked it, men made decals for cars,
and because of heat-seeking missiles, no one would touch,
and because sunsets were lovely when laced with blasts,
some men turned against the birds of Mesopotamia,
and because one man’s name became shrapnel, everyone
wanted to be nameless, and because the war would never end,
card games would stop as soon as the dealer dealt the hand,
everything wild. And because you brushed your teeth
and hair with trigger fingers, some men became unkempt
and had to do squats and suicides in the Green Zone
until they learned. And once they learned, they were scalped,
or their brains swelled against the brainpan, pushing out and against.


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