Men of War

By Kathryn Staublin

Returning home to lives worth living,

to the quiet of the dust settling,

in the comfort of a dream

that had so long escaped them


But years fringe like thread

and ash in their mouths,

clogging the sweet taste of freedom

and clouding the senses in memories past.


Daily lives, daily jobs, everything

just a peeled layer away

            from the nightmare, a shield

            protecting them from sight,

            but not from mind.


They cannot pretend, or else

they cannot bring themselves to do it—

old habits, like pennies in a jar,

reminding them one by one

of the fallen, the city alarms for smoke

and fire bring back the smolder

and bang of gunfire, explosions

in the distance curling with

flame, hate, and mountains of sand.


They blink and see the sweating glass

clutched in strained, displaced fingers

and remind themselves that

their bodies, at least, are home—even if

their minds are still at war.