For the Men We Loved Who Never Returned from War
When they returned, we counted fingers, toes as if they had been reborn to us. We had given the best of our men, the ones who could split the earth with their hands and hoist whole trees to their brown shoulders. When we saw their weeping, the aunts shushed our questions and said It’s the war, the warand it was dis- tinction without difference. So many men we gave. So many wars. When I was 8, I caught B back in the spare room drinking. He stood up, looked me in the eye and closed the door between us without a word. While playing hide and seek with my cousins, I found E in the basement cabinets thrum- ming hhuhnnn, hhuhnnn— rocking himself back and forth. He drew a finger to his lips, sweeping a hand to his head as if to gesture keep your head down, slid the door against me, shut himself back up in it like a box. So many men we knew. So many wars. I learned this as a child. This is how the world is made—we sent our men to her, got half the half she was willing to do with- out. Line ourselves about them like joists and built whole homes around the missing part. Because the war, the war. So many wars. Because we love all the men we gave. Because love is our bluntest instrument. Between us love is steadfast, black, loaded as a gun.