All the King’s Men

  Crisp, pressed, clean.
  Each single step falls purposefully.
  He can’t sweat.
  Might break his air of dignity.
  Deep slow breaths.
  He takes this task so seriously.
March, men, march.

  Tie your boots.
  There can be not one mistake.
  This is it!
  Your wife, your child, your life at stake.
  Worry not!
  We face not men but enemies.
March, men, march.

  Cross the sea,
  Nerves chip upon your confidence.
  Look at me!
  But we have hate and providence.
March, men, march.

  Piece of shit
  Worthless bitch
  Sand nigger

  He strikes from protected places,
  We will not strike back,
  He uses our conscience to base his attack,
  We will not become him.
  We will not.

  We will not.
  We can’t.
  We come too close.
March, men, march.

  It’s never yours, but theirs you see.
  The crisp suit,
  The wife, the child, the family.
  A price you cannot understand.
  And the cost,
  Some souls, some lost, fall to the man.
March, men, march.


This is poem #2 of 25 in my project called Remains which is about the transformative effect of war, the costs involved with killing, and what's it's like to be there.

|Meaning as I wrote it: This is one of the first poems that I wrote and was actually written when I was in Kandahar the second time. Then, I didn't know that I had PTSD, though I knew I wasn't 100% somehow. This was written in 2010, and by then one of my good friends who I had been deployed with in 2007 had already endured a psychological break. He took all his cash from his bank account, drove to Denver, ditched his car at the airport to make it look like he flew somewhere, but instead got on a train.

He was stopped after causing a disturbance on the train in Lincoln where he was arrested and they called back to our squadron. He was completely unintelligible and talking about going on a 'mission to Omaha' where we had both been stationed during our first deployment. I don't know what he was going to do, but I know what he's seen, and how it makes you feel. His break showed me there were cracks in my foundations but I wasn't ready to address them and didn't for another 5 years to the detriment of my family and myself.

These are the costs I want to bring to light. He is not unique, he is just one of many examples of what remains after war. Killing someone else kills a part of you. That part has varying shades of necessity and some people move on just fine without it. Or maybe they're just better at hiding it.

posted by user-inactivated: 1407 days ago