poetryrepairs 15,04:039

ABIGAIL B. CALKIN Soul of my Soldier
:Missing Faces
: How Boys Become Men
: Returning

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Missing Faces

There are thistles among young daffodils. Women weep for faces now gone. History repeats itself when torn hearts ache.

poetryrepairs #211 15,04:039

How Boys Become Men

When the soldier cries, he sheds no tears.
I. Your mother thought you were a pyromaniac. A friend assured her all boys are until they turn into men who build good fires. Watch him stand before his primal flame. Home on leave, you had your 19th birthday in Iraq. You drive with an M-16 on the floor of the front seat leaning up against the passenger door. Terrifying the town But no one asks you why You stop your car to talk to me. How good it is to see you, How’s your family? You ask. How are you? I ask. I killed a 12-year-old boy. It’s good to be back. I killed a 12-year-old boy. I’m home for two weeks. I killed a 12-year-old boy. I’m going to the park. Home on leave. A week ago you were in Baghdad streets shooting at people, being shot at. You did not leave those streets when you stepped off the plane into the woods of Alaska. What do you see behind the trees in the forests you played in as a boy? You’re 19. I weep for you until you learn to weep for yourself. Till then, World, hold him in the palm of your heart. II. Your mother tells me you guard a colonel. That must be safe, I reassure her. No one’s going to let anything happen to a colonel. Home on leave, you display six photos of buddies killed. I sly a shot to your mother, mocking myself, as I slow my walk, Seeing I was dead wrong. Shot glass in front of each photo. You place the seventh glass —or is it the first— in the middle before the unit emblem. You fill each one. Down a toast for your comrades from the shot glass in the middle. Go to the first photo. Say something about him. Offer a silent prayer. Pour his shot on the ground. Down the row in one more farewell to each. I wish their families could see you honor them. I glance at my husband, a three-year two-war veteran— your mentor you say, calling your mother from Iraq for his phone number. Tears brim his eyes. I went to Russia and Ukraine a month later. Told several in both countries. Ah! The mothers nodded, That is how our soldiers honor their dead in the field and once home: Slavic tradition in a US Army platoon. Mourn the dead Bring the troops home. I do not want to see mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, brothers, fathers and sons weep Till they learn to nest their tears in the palms of their hearts.

poetryrepairs #211 15,04:039


On return from Iraq a captain camped on Kodiak with fellow Marines, kayaked Glacier Bay a week alone, came to my house to do laundry and shower. When my husband came home, the captain asked “How long does it take?” I stood in the kitchen and turned off my ears. This was a conversation between two from combat not one for eavesdropping.

poetryrepairs #211 15,04:039

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