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My Men

by Tom Griffen

All the talk about their women back home
quieted the platoon down. I disappear
to the last time I walked up the stones
to my girl’s stoop on Rush Street.
I had no words and that was OK.

Then one of the men, the usual one,
broke the silence with a roaring belch,
rousing us into a laughter more out of habit
than anything else. Our abrupt return triggered
more empty chatter, keeping us from thinking too much.

I wish for more silence.
I want to pretend to think I can smell
her perfume. I want to sneak through her
neighborhood of lavender-lined walkways.
Nighttime bushes with waxy leaves
that reflect the cushioned glow
of her folks’ orange porch light.
I want to make a final nervous left
toward her house, guided by the smell
of a casserole, no doubt something
she might make for our children
someday. I arrive at her doorstep
with honorable intentions that I’ll never
be able to reveal to my men.
They’ve here come to kill, and so have I.

Tom Griffen enlisted in the U.S. Army and provided rear support during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He is currently an MFA student of Poetry at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. His military writings are inspired by family history, namely his two grandfathers’ WWII and Korean War service (101st Airborne and U.S. Navy Medic, respectively), and his father’s experience in the U.S. Air Force during Vietnam.

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