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Collateral Damage

by Richard Epstein

I am disturbed,

I am saddened,

Collateral damage,
acceptable losses
how clean,
how sterile it seems.

Bodies without limbs.
Bodies with red, pink
and blackened skin.

Browned bodies bloated
by decay and when
it’s over and time has passed,

firefights, medevacs
replay in their heads,
triggered by a baby’s cry,
a pungent odor,
too much green or red,
a sudden breeze,
a hard stare.

Collateral damage!
Ask the mother who sees
her daughter withdraw
from family and friends.
Ask the childless mother!

Ask the father who sees
his once fun-loving son
disengaged, lost,
and short tempered.
Ask the fatherless son!

Ask the returning soldier
who wakes to recheck
locked doors each night.

Ask the veteran
who avoids crowds
and always sits
near an exit or
with back to a wall.

Richard Epstein served in the Signal Corps as a Microwave Radio Repairman, an Instructor at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey and Field Engineer attached to the 1st Signal Brigade, Vietnam. He currently participates in the Veterans Writing Project poetry workshop at Walter Reed. Bethesda, MD.



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