april 23 2008
“bye mom. i love you so much, i swear
i’ll be home soon.”
“please, you’re only eighteen, you have your
whole life ahead of you, please
don’t throw it away.”
“i’m going, mom. i’m going overseas
but i swear i’ll be back before you
miss me. love you!”
most nights he shakes himself awake
with the vision of bombs and fire and bullets
still imprinted on his eyelids.
he doesn’t know what to call them.
the dreams, i mean.
what do you call bad dreams when
you’ve already lived the nightmare?
his therapist says his problem
is he thinks he’s not normal, that he doesn’t fit,
that he’s a special kind of monster.
she tells him that the key is figuring out the ways
that he’s the same.
so when he’s alone, or worried or stressed
or tired or hurt or wishing he were dead,
he traces over his collarbone and says
clavicle. down his arm and says humerus,
says ulna, says one, two, skip a few, nine, ten phalanges
at night he traces words into her back.
“what do you write?” she asks him once over microwaved coffee.
nothing, he says, secrets.
“you could just tell me them instead.”
some things aren’t supposed to be said out loud.
he remembers running down hills,
away from people.
now he feels like he’s falling
or flying or both.
he can’t pinpoint the last time he’s been okay,
just like he can’t pinpoint the first time he heard a gunshot.
his mind is a caved-in maze,
bleeding from the inside out,
body set on self-destruct.
and he sticks the gun in his mouth
and he clicks the metal against his teeth,
once for every life he took
and he pulls the trigger
for the ones he wasn’t able to save.
pull the trigger.
they bury him in a suit two sizes too small—
the one he wore to granmama’s funeral when he was seventeen.
it was the only one he had.
he had told her, “when we get married,
i can just wear my brother’s.”
in the coffin, his sleeve cuffs hang tight around his forearms.
you don’t need suits in wars.
there is nothing to remember him by—
everything and everyone who loved him
is either dead or pushed away.
the only two documents that prove his existence
is the release from service form—confused, risk to the team
ptsd, ptsd, ptsd, ptsd
and the medical examination after his death—
well, hank, it looks like he blew his own face off.
messy clean up there. kids these days….
there are lots of ways to die in a war.
bullets, bombs, bleeding out,
sticking the gun in your own mouth
and pulling the trigger. if you make it home,
there’s only one way to die: