The plastic, olive infantryman obediently dangles out the window of
Alex’s mom’s new ‘83 Corolla hatchback, an old shoelace tied to his leg;
The other end clutched in my hand, sticky with sour apple Now and Laters residue.
Each green light stuttering over concrete as if riddled with enemy fire,
Body crashing street like a dire Kamikaze.
Dropped off in my driveway, I pick him up, put him in my palm,
And inspect his wounds recalling the word I got wrong on the spelling test
Earlier in the day,
Battered, misshapen, almost all in one piece, one couldn’t tell
He never had a heart.
I’d never heard of Norman Schwarzkopf.
Didn’t know much about the Persian Gulf
Simply, “scud missiles” often punch lines to late night monologues.
It’s early Monday morning and I’m hung over from a frat party when Alex calls.
“They may ship me to Iraq soon bro.”
I thought he only wore the uniform to get laid, and the only time he’d ever fire,
Feverishly mashing button A during drunken Nintendo wars.
The day we hugged goodbye my tears tasted like gunpowder,
And I hoped he’d shoot those mother fuckers in their mouths.
The house smelled festive. Alex’s mom cooked chicken enchiladas,
And baked a chocolate cake. Blue and white frosting read,
Welcome home hero.
Resuming epic video game battles in his living room:
Me on the La-Z-Boy, feet propped up on the ottoman,
Alex next to me, just like pedaling to the park.
From his wheelchair, abrupt stubs once rangy legs he proclaimed,
“I’ll still kick your ass.”
In that moment I recalled,
—Alex never missed words on spelling tests.
Battered, misshapen, almost all in one piece, one couldn’t tell,
He never had regrets.
(Originally published in Poetry Superhighway)