Collecting bottles, tossing leftovers, taking out the garbage
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They gather in lodges, these unflinching,
gray-haired men in caps with unit insignias.
The meat loaf and gravy on styrofoam goes
mostly untouched. Their nourishment comes
from camaraderie, the sharing of all
that family cannot understand.
Bonds formed in foxholes are
for life — just one of many lessons they teach me,
the newcomer with buzz-cut hair
who scans the corners of every room
he enters. No one asks about nightmares
or promises things will get better soon.
They, too, know of horrors but choose to speak
of gleeful hijinks by comrades now fallen.
Thinking of my friend Anderson, I imagine him alive.
It’s a warm day in the desert, and
he perches atop a camel, the squad cheering
as he lurches in circles, clinging to its mane.