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Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category

Steel Beach Picnic

by Joseph Couillard

I can smell the salty, sea air from the bottom of the trunk.
I let it fill my lungs, breathing life back into my oxygen-deprived muscles.
I look up.
The ladder-well is like a telescope, magnifying the holy blue sky above.
I begin my climb.
With each rung I shed a layer.
Watch.
Drills.
Briefs.
Training.
Boards.
Inspections.
Manuals.
Qualifications.
Exams.
I reach the top nearly weightless.
I rub my eyes, coaxing them awake.
The waves fall gently against the side of the boat.
The sun has already baked the deck dry.
I stagger before I find the horizon to steady myself.
I sit down on the tough, textured deck.
It digs deep into my skin, but I don’t mind.
Someone is playing classic rock over an amplifier.
The cooks are flipping burgers on a charcoal grill.
Almost everyone is smoking.
The captain looks down from the bridge like a proud father.
I look to the east, knowing that is where home is, but for the first time in a while it doesn’t seem to matter.
I look around.
They are singing, laughing, dancing; all the things that just minutes before had been surrendered to the shadows of the boat.
Sitting there, with the sun setting all around us, we talk of love and of family and of how at that moment we would pay just about anything for a six-pack.
I take a deep breath and let it all wash over me.
I smile.
For a second it almost makes it all worth it.

LTJG Joseph Couillard is a Submarine Officer stationed in Bangor, Washington. He earned his commission through the NROTC program at Iowa State University in 2013. In his free time he enjoys writing, reading, playing basketball, and spending time with his girlfriend.

Sex with Strangers

by Joshua Callaway

I step foot back on home soil, every bit as foreign as the place I just left.
We spot each other simultaneously.
I smile, and she smiles back.
My heart pounds in a mix of fear and anticipation, like being in a firefight.

We embrace awkwardly, both of our bodies tense.
I feel her tremble as I place my hot mouth of her soft lips.
She doesn’t know me, not anymore.

We wait by the carousel in awkward silence hand in hand.
Palms slick.
She wants to let go, wants to wipe her hand clean on her skin tight jeans.
I want this too, but we hang on, because that’s what is expected.

The hotel is a five minute drive from the airport, but it seems much closer and we arive much too soon.
She has already checked in so we go straight to our room.
We make small talk as we strip back to back, shying away from each other’s glances.

Naked strangers.
We look each other up and down for the first time.
I smile, and she smiles back.
We kiss once more, deeper this time, searching for familiarity.
On the bed in a tangled mess of flesh we find each other again.
I tell her I love her.
She says she loves me too.

Joshua Callaway is a medically retired army veteran who served more than fourteen years as an airborne infantryman. He fought in both Afghanistan (03-04 & 11-12) and Iraq (07-08). He is a father of three boys and currently attends Grossmont College, where he is pursuing an MFA in creative writing.

Returning Home

by Dane Bowker

The bullets snap
And barrels pop
While the earth beneath me ripples
I realize then that I’m alive
And love my brothers by my side

In this land
Of desert sand
I’ve done the things that make a man
Pushed away the fears that haunt
Those things that most will not confront

Returning home
To a world unknown
I feel that life has passed me by
A host of faces but knowing few
They care not for me and thus withdrew

Up I get
And don my shoes
To work I go where nothing’s new
Boredom pines for days long past
Where bullets whispered amongst the grass

Weary now
And dull of eye
I reflect upon a dreary life
Fixing dinner I slip and slash
My upturned wrist above the trash

The streets are quiet
The earth is still
So much yet left unfulfilled
Collapsing fast as I lie down
I realize then I’ll die alone

Dane Bowker was one of the first members of the Afghanistan – Pakistan Hands Program, serving in Kandahar from 2010 to 2011 and Ghazni from 2013 to 2014. He was one of the only Department of Defense civilians operating at the village level in Village Stability Operations and worked closely with Afghan Local Police and the Afghan National Army. He currently resides in the National Capital Region and is looking for his next big adventure.

Cockpit

by Sarah Estime

I’ve invested too much time into the military to be called sweetie and honey. I wonder how many toolboxes I have to tote for these old timers to respect me. I’m out in the cold, I’m wrenching wrenches, I’m climbing stairs, I’m tolerating their stenches. And they joke but dammit breaking a nail really hurts. I could clip them but I just painted them and they match with my shirt.

My confidence has to assert itself from somewhere. I mean, my parents were army so my childhood was austere. My bedroom was a barrack and they called push-ups and suicides rearing. So having a greasy man with his voice thick with phlegm, his laugh dry and cracking, exclaiming, “She just wants to be like one of the boys!” isn’t my ideal job. “Haven’t updated my sensitivity training,” they say. I’m never offended. I’m just disappointed the jokes weren’t delivered better.

I’m not sure if I was made for the military or if the military was made for me. There was a time I had an accident and a maroon streak of you-know-what trickled through my pants. And then someone made a joke and I turned bright red and then they told me to stop acting like I was on my period and I said, “Well, I can’t.” I questioned humanity. Should I be the kind of feminist that loves to talk about the C-5 because I don’t. I have to somehow follow my sister’s West Point prestige. Like how am I gonna do that?

Well, you get married like a large number of enlistees do. It’s not tradition if you don’t do it within a month of knowing each other. And then you move to base and complain about the rent. Your husband gets put on nights and a resentment comes out of nowhere. You have a kid, you get into debt, you out-process, you think you’re set. But you become a vet and then life really isn’t fair because you learn that the world is “paying for health insurance” and “mowing lawns.” And if you’ve been stationed in Delaware (and stuck there as a result) you totally forget what a sales tax is.

But the military is also a wonderful place filled with joy. You move quicker, you think quicker, you develop the kind of photographic memory that makes you believe you’re a superhero. And if you stick it out with the guy you met in tech school, the only thing provoking you to get a divorce would be your one foot newborn giving you a month-long cold.

Sarah Estime is an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force. When she is not working her day job, she is composing works related to literary fiction. She been published by the African American Review, Burner Magazine, and O-Dark-Thirty.

Peace in Valhalla

by Justin Reeves

Normalcy is non-existent
Do you really think you can fix us
Our minds are clouded with dysfunction
Thoughts of blood, thoughts of destruction
N to the Xth power
Is that the calculation for the cure
Floating down the river of grief
Until we drown in the depths of anger
Haunted by the shadows of the dead
We relapse into a realm of chaotic conflict
Subdue the internal demons with pharmaceuticals
Yet, their screams of rage lurk in the depths of the hippocampus
Like a deathrow inmate walking the green mile
We reflect and embrace on our deteorating innocence
Until one day we awaken in this world
And our sanity is eternally vanquished
We exit this earthly shell
Navigating galaxies steering an infinite chariot
A warrior’s spirit never truly perishes
Rather wages paranormal war on a quest for blissful peace
And when that peace is found
We shall rally in Valhalla

Justin Reeves is an active duty Soldier with over 19 years on service in the United States Army. His combat experience ranges from Afghanistan to Iraq. He began writing poetry in February 2016 while receiving inpatient treatment for PTSD and alcohol dependency. His motivation is to reach out to fellow veterans who also suffer from PTSD and alcohol/chemical dependency.

Boarders

by Edward Ahern

When was it
That we quit killing animals
And they opted to come back.
Neighborhood densely packed with humans
Are somehow settled by
Squirrels and possums and skunks
Song birds and crows and ducks
Raccoons and chipmunks and mice
Blue jays and woodpeckers and grackles
Deer and rats and feral cats
All visited by coyotes.
Surprising amount of room at the inn.

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and inyernational sales. He has his original wife, but advises that after forty eight years they are both out of warranty. He has had over a hundred stories and poems, and two books, published so far.

deceit

by Dale Zukowski

Where do you look to find your way
when everything is dark and bleak.

How do you find the strength to stay
when you can’t even speak.

How do you continue to care
when you cannot feel your heartbeat.

Why do you still try to share
amid the lies and deceit.

Does karma patiently wait
with a smile upon its face.

To collect those who show that trait,
or do those who hurt, vanish without a trace ?

Dale Zukowski is a Navy veteran who served in a number of posts with the Combat Camera Unit based out of San Diego. He currently works for General Motors. 

Baghdad 2015

by Amy Sexauer

Today
Under the swaying fronds of lofty palm trees
I think about all the eyes that have closed for the last time
Under these dusty drifting branches
There are birds in Baghdad
And tiny flowers pink orange and yellow
And I wonder if the rain that raised these flowers
Has washed away the blood from stained stones
Everything breaks
And everyone dies
But how long does it take the spirit of war to fade from a place

I ride in the back of a heavy SUV
In my ironed shirt and slacks
Coffee cup
Silvano sunglasses
And I pass
Block by block
It stills smells like violence
Thick in the air
Between gray walled homes
And mundane traffic accidents
A million different scenes play out
Hallucinations dancing atop my vision
The shiny teeth of young men as they stand in front of flags
For the only photo I will every know them by
What would their mothers think
To see this place now
Their friends are still here
They keep coming back because they can never really leave
But their pain and their anger
Infects the air
This land cant move on and cant let go
Because people wont forgive
And people wont heal

Captain Amy Sexauer is a writer and poet still serving on active duty in the Special Operations community. She commissioned from the United States Military Academy in 2009, and has deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dover

by Renee Gherity

families of the fallen
there’s a center for you
in a coffee-tabled room
with tranquil
landscaped paintings
and leather couches

and there’s a room for children
with pillowed floors
and walls with chalkboard paint
to draw their feelings

while you wait
for the transfer case

Renee Gherity’s husband is a retired Navy captain. Her poem “War Waltz, Uncounted,” about PTSD, was published in The Innisfree Journal, 21.

War Souvenir

by James E. Smith

I spent a week with the rat patrol
checking the road for booby traps.
Larry talked about his girl in Georgia;
he carried a picture of Lisa smiling
beneath the magnolias,
wearing a pure white dress.

We passed through a country
where we didn’t belong,
sent to preserve somebody’s freedom.

Soldiers believe there’s no greater bond
than the one between brothers in arms.

Larry told me he killed a man,
not for hate nor for glory.
His squad was ambushed one night –
Larry kept shooting into the dark,
into the heart of a stranger.

Buddhists believe we are bound
to an endless cycle of birth and rebirth.

Next morning he didn’t rejoice
when he found the twisted corpse
of the man who tried to destroy him.

Larry shouldn’t have taken his wallet;
he showed me the picture inside –
a girlfriend or wife reaching out
to touch a lotus flower,
wearing a pure white dress.

James E. Smith served during the Vietnam War as a grunt with the 25th Infantry Division. He is active with the Vietnam Veterans of America and works with incarcerated veterans.