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Trials of My Youth

Jeremy’s dead
My mom starts crying
Silently, calmly
She and I
Are the only ones
At home
He was in the Humvee
With my dad
When they drove over the IED
When the explosion flipped them over

When someone dies
All contact between souls
Here and there
Is cut off
Until the deceased’s
Closest souls
“Are notified”
Without speaking
We acknowledge
What we’d suspected about
The preceding lack of contact

I’m twelve
Soon to be thirteen
I take in the news
Calmly, quietly
Leave the house
Don’t tell my mom
She doesn’t care anyway
The streets are empty
The other kids
Are in school
I haven’t been in a school
Since the 6th grade

This year would’ve
Been the 8th grade for me
This thought doesn’t bother me
Never cared much for school
No friends, an abundance of bullies
And I’m needed at home
A pregnant invalid for a mom
A dad across an ocean
And absent when he is here
I run the house
Make sure my three siblings
(Soon to be four, eventually eight)
Take baths

Meanwhile an ex-wife
In another part of the country
Contemplates the death
Of her ex-husband
And I walk down the street
The hot Texan sun
Beating on my face
To my best friend’s house
I ring the door-bell, and wait
No one answers
She’s at school, with her brothers
Her dad’s in Iraq
…or was it Afghanistan
And her mom rarely leaves the bed

I content myself with
Sitting on the sidewalk
Pushing a broken vodka bottle
With my toes, I never wear shoes
Stare at the callouses
Formed from walking
On hot pavement and gravel
Quietly sing an old hymn
I only remember
The first and fourth verses
It’s been a few months
Since I’ve been to church
This thought doesn’t bother me
I love God, but not the treatment
I receive from the people there

The field by the
Chain-linked fence
Usually brown and dead
Is filled, not with
The usual crab-grass
But hundreds and hundreds
Of soft-petaled wildflowers
A handful of butterflies
Dance to a swift and fluid rhythm
Over, between, into
Through
Over, between, into
Through
Over, between, into
Boom
Jeremy’s dead

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