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Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category


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

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.


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. 

Degenerate’s Dogma

by Tyrone Townsend

Ever woke up to one of those days feeling like
God took a dump on you?
It’s always the day after a decent hangover or “one of those days.”
It’s that awkward moment when life happens all too quickly and your reaction is too slow.
Life conned you into “living.”
Life is full of experiences, but life is a manipulative bastard.
Many idioms describe our experiences:
“That’s life”
“Shit happens”
or “It is what it is.”
But a heap of situations like drunk nights, one night stands, close calls, and
mishaps are endangerments concocted by my own hands.
Some hindrances are intricately woven into the madness of our lives, yet there are
events out of our control.
No one is immune to pain and sorrow.
So I agree that “shit happens.”
There’s no map filled with geographical landmarks; only trial and error.
We’re all flawed individuals born into existence and made into “humans.”
We’re just trying to make it back home after a night out
then repeat the cycle.
We’re all too hard on ourselves except our high expectations fuel us.
I raise my glass to all of you:
or anyone who knows life can be a bitch!
Drink up!
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen man, but I’m gonna get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.”
-Jim Morrison

Tyrone Townsend is a writer, illustrator, and occasional blogger. He served four years in the Air Force and now attends college at Armstrong Atlantic.


by Nicholas Chiarkas


death brushes past me
she drags away frightened friends
Mara why not me

recurring nightmares
midnight mourning of dismay
retain terror’s taste

died in that jungle
returned home to no parade
can you still feel me

Nicholas Chiarkas served in the US Army (101st Airborne Division) from 1962 – 1965. He is the author of Weepers, an award-winning mystery/suspense novel set in New York City in 1957.

Chiraq PTSD Willies

by Gerard Sarnat

Lands of broken toys, Chi-town bricks weighed my Mosul wagon.
Poseur know-it-all putz sure The Kid Had It,
pussy wagon bulletproof spunk after spunk blasted
Teflon tainted by smart-aleck prig’s ruthless ambit.
Gelatinous abyss peaked this fraught jewfish’s
dysmotional algebra.

Mendelian mendacious, morally elastic squid’s
self-loathing golden rule hubris screwed-reamed-
creamed-blasphemed-extorted spaz cliques deemed unworthy.
Grifter betrayed shave-buttered girlfriends, forsook buddies
to settle scores, swapped out the whole shmeer
for flashier peacocks.

A pinhead shidiot jerkoff brimming with butthair conceit,
porked with delusions of stallion dicks, in the sack 13 hours,
splooging the other 12; pee-wee one-eyed Charley whetted ‘n
whacked choke-the-chicken skeet (ain’t strudel yanked on jammies).
My detrusor Miles Davis dance done, Pa grumbled Ma’s
honeypot festered.

Bedding a once friend’s gullible wife’s crippled life, good boy
tries to be bad, two-faced boy to be good. Never met Mom’s dad
— she said the cad shouldn’tv’e been told he was brainiac
and seeded moi’s arrogance – parents were right to be lurid.
Nearing my boneability crossroads, the less I comprehend, but
menschier perhaps?

Gerard Sarnat has had family members in the Armed Forces, some of whom have shared their  experiences with him. He is the author of four collections: HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man (2010)Disputes (2012)17s (2014), and Melting The Ice King (2016). He has built and staffed clinics for the marginalized, including many veterans, and been a CEO of healthcare organizations and Stanford Medical School professor. Married since 1969, he and his wife have three kids and three grandkids.

The Forgotten Children

by Newt Ronan

These are the forgotten children.
Lying abandoned where they fell.
No pulse, no sound, no light.
They took nothing but breath
And left no more than idle wind
Stirring summer grass at midnight.
No past, no future, leaving no memories
Of life or living or dying.
Call them forgotten.
Buried in abandoned graves
Or burned to ash, scattered,
Blowing through vacant fields and darkened streets.

Newt Ronan is a US Army Infantry Vietnam War veteran who led platoon size operations in the DMZ and in the area west of Chu Lai during 1968 and 1969 was honorably discharged in 1970 as a captain, Infantry. His awards include the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, a case of malaria and an Agent Orange injury. Retired after a long business career, he spends his time on fitness and family and, in his writing efforts, failing to do justice to the fallen.

Fury Came to Visit

by Amanda Clerc

Fury came to visit
and she welcomed it in
Serpents enveloped her aura
Fire stares from her eyes
Metal quenches her thirst
Course skin crawls,
In spite of her hospitality
Flush wet nape
Muscles clench
In the small of her back
Restlessness to unleash fury
Heart pounds with excruciating thumps

Amanda Clerc is a Minnesota Army National Guardswoman and an Iraq war veteran. She deployed for 22 months with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division. Amanda lives in the Minneapolis area with her son and a cuddly lab retriever.

Thick, Black Smoke

by Brandy Williams


I rake leaves, place
in pile, and toss match. A
hard day’s work drips
from my brow. Flames duel,
dancing a waltz before ravaging
blood heart of a half-eaten
carcass. Acorns pop, whistle
like fighter planes dropping
from heaven. Pale, yellow earth
turns red. Smoke soaks
up landscape; white clouds drift
on breath currents.

White smoke is natural; black
is manmade.


We stood in shade,
methodically cleaning residue
from guns. I stepped out back
and lit up.

Black smoke—thick, black smoke billowed in air:
“Hey, what’s that?” I asked, pointing at the smoke.
“I’m not sure; white smoke is natural; black
is manmade,” he said.
We went back to the shade.

The radio chirped panicked voices—
“Ranger Five—Blackjack—landline, Now!”
The Humvee’s squealing tires,
the sergeant yelling—
“Get your gear! Plane down! Plane down!”
broke me from my trance.


We race across the desert,
as barren as my womb, heading
towards smoke—thick, black smoke.
Sand hammers my mouth, my lungs. We
follow smoke, catch air; up, down,
white knuckled, grind to a halt.

Pebbles drift over canyon’s edge—falls
like stone snow; imagine falling
like a stone, spiraling
to an unconscious end
on the crushed basalt below.

We tightrope the canyon’s edge
with our gear. It is there, the smoke—
thick, black smoke. And
just beyond the range—
the plane.
Hydrazine attacks my body
like a swarm of bees, and I
breathe shards of glass.

“What’s that smell?” I ask,
sniffing the air. Horrid, rancid—
like three day old meat, baking
under a desert sun. The world swirled
like a spindle top flipped
on its axis.

He is there, in the flames, floundering
like a fish finning for air.
Sinewy flesh drips
from bones.

Heat of a thousand suns scars
my face, melts off his. Flames dance
in his eyes.


I reach
for him, withdraw my charred
hand. He’s waving,
waving goodbye. No, it’s
just my nephew running
through vapor fields.

Brandy Williams is an Air Force veteran who served as a jet engine mechanic and an independent duty medical technician from 1997-2010. After she separated from the military, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in from Louisiana State University at Alexandria. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Southern Studies at Ole Miss.