I used to believe a thousand protest signs
could alter decisions of lawmakers and kings,
save my friend from eight more months in Iraq.
Now his baby boy wails at home,
and his wife waits,
clenches a pillow until she’s red-knuckled,
or squirts his cologne and pretends he’s close.
I used to believe in the power
of a few chords, distorted, blaring
from vibrating speakers. My friend fronted
the band, balled his fist, roared a cover
of the Dead Kennedys’ track
“Stars and Stripes of Corruption.”
Months later, he enlisted.
Now his guitar sits in cases,
locked in storage until his return.
I used to believe in mapped out
plans made with him—
dorm room arrangements,
blocks of study time, then parties
after our classes at Temple, West Chester, or Drexel.
Now I cling to his wife’s words—
He’ll be back, he’ll come home soon.
I wait for our once-a-month Skype chat
when he says, After this, I’m enrolling in school.
I give him a thumbs up, believe in
the grainy webcam video,
the microphoned voice.