SIX MONTHS INTO YOUR SECOND DEPLOYMENT I wake to flat hair, the tug of time spidering across my reflection tightening over my forehead’s bone. Beyond the drafty glass sit yellowed fields and ruined gardens. A lone bird pecks at some once-seeded thing. I am a brittle leaf trapped against a wire fence, a trickle of rusty water teasing like the sense of something waiting to unfold, leaving only the wait. I conjure what ifs, consider omens. Beg strangers to pray for you, make absurd promises to God.
SPLINTERED I could not manage the gloves, chunk after chunk, fresh-split firewood, that sliver sliding in unnoticed, but for a tiny tingle, in the struggle to keep up. It was not to be needled or tweezed besting me from all sides, my face sphinctered in concentration, sweat, setting myself down on the wedge planked floor. I day-dream the beach, your tiny boy legs brown, sand stamped, face striped with sun. I choke on clouds, thrown forward, your assault rifle cocked, cradled in the crook of your arm. Shrapnel, pinpricks grey and blue dot your cheek and brow. The numb sodality of death festers, fills your head with cruel grace, your memories impossibly wide.
Photo by Christopher Burns