Poetry  December 2016 | issue 492

Alternate History

by Bill Glose

Bill Glose is a former paratrooper and author of three poetry collections, including Half a Man, about his experiences as a combat platoon leader in the Gulf War. He lives in Yorktown, Virginia.

When we rolled into Iraq,
newspapers predicted more
than half of us would die.

Eyes masked by tinted goggles,
we assumed stoic expressions
or else joked and slugged shoulders

embroidered with Airborne tabs,
that narrow strip proclaiming
our shared religion. I remember

the certitude settling into my bones
that I would not come back whole,
accepting that sour fact the same way

a losing wrestler shakes
his opponent’s hand before
the ref raises it in victory.

Looking back on my younger self,
so full of bravado
and jingoistic pride, I ponder

the multiverse theory of existence.
On another plane, perhaps the predictions
were correct, my corpse rolled

into an unmarked grave and covered
by a dune’s shifting sand. But then
there would also be another world

with another version of myself that
never went to war, never bargained
with God to drop his hammer

on someone else, never unleashed
the black dog within his heart
and set its gnashing teeth to work.

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