Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Diorama (the young soldier returning to duty)

The leaves play a game over his head.
The teasing is friendly. It’s called summer.
Still, he wishes he’d be given a real job to do.

Every day he walks down the same road to bring an old woman the same news:
I’ve checked again, ma’am, and I am not your boy.
None of the others back at camp are yours either.

Downtown, people want to spend a long time talking about the soldier
and his super-fast reflexes, his shorn hair,
his desire to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,
but there isn’t much to say.
He’s in such a hurry to absorb the complexity for us.
He volunteers before the request is made.
Only he can fulfill our deepest wish,
to remain noble while killing. He doesn’t know his real job
is to look up at us and explode.

He stands outside the old woman’s house covered in sunshine,
the sticky blood of afternoon. He doesn’t remember what flowers, if any,
he’s supposed to bring her. He looks around for clues. The parts of the day
that can move away from him seem giddy.

When she buckles, he sets the old woman down on the couch
without letting his grief become either real or fake.

He walks home looking smart, like a piece of candy
saved for the end of the day.
The earth is going to swallow him.
He’s powerfully medicinal. Crack open a soldier’s head
and you’ll find all the sweet boys inside, crushed into a fine powder.  

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