Some where a soldier dies without permission

The letter home arrives to a flatfooted father whose Uncle had never spoken of sitting in a hole in the mud, curled into a ball, helmet and teeth and hands clattering to the tune of incoming shells
And the letter arrives from a man with one arm who cannot shake with his right.
The father does not go hunting next season
He buys his meat all winter from the butchers with the widows, and they smile hollow smiles, smiles that will fill themselves with time and the spring.
Somewhere a soldier dies without permission
And three old men will never forget his name although they know new recruits only by the name green until they’ve proven they can survive a thing or two
Somewhere a child soldier dies without permission
A stray shot while boiling oranges still hard
attrocity and addiction and aversion and attack, attack, attack
No less a good soldier, no field of white concrete crosses, no etching, just the abandoned campsite
The scattering of warm empty casings
Empty villages, crowded refugee camps, dead men running through the night to the nearest well
And pickup truck headlights and muzzle flash
Hollow bellies, helpless mothers, eyes that have seen now unblinking, and old men not worth the bullet
no such thing as undisturbed sleep
No such thing as a dull machette
No such thing as a good war
A good shot
A good service
A good soldier does not die without permission
No such thing as a good death for any of us
No such thing as world peace
The right country will win
The winner is always right
Tom Hanks will direct the next one shot for shot
And maybe a child will grow older
And write an autobiography they will assign me in freshman composition.
I read cover to bloody cover
Although I ace the paper
I ache for another’s childhood
More than I ache for my own
And pour myself a drink without permission


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