Before He Enlisted

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.

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