De Novo Soldier

My ugly secrets hide beneath my thin skin.
Infinitely fighting in my lonely final tour,
Not making the cut for
A battalion of beautiful survivors who stared directly into the eyes of the freshly dead.
Limping home and stitched together, held upright on a single crutch.
Marching in the endless parade
They inch away for you see how far things have come,
bathed in the glow of pink light.
Open their uniforms –
Discover traces of ink from the triage tents
Their tattoos from strange archipelago parlors.
Arriving home one by one
home to their places as plumed birds in cages.
You tie ribbons around trees,
draw a pretty pictures of pity,
Run tearfully from the doorstep leaving offerings of happiness,
Quickly cobbled with gum and string,
with a note to “just keep the dish.”

Yet in the dense tropical foliage,
no one saw the soldiers hiding in my trenches.
With unsteady eyes I scan the papers for new strategic positions,
After training to uncover sleeper cells of suicide bombers.
I want to wear my cancer on my head like a turban, on my chest like scars,
My arms decorated by kisses of needles in iris colored bruises,
In the cover of an empresses’ new clothes embroidered with test results and dyed in thin blood.
I’m too ugly for a bouquet of flowers that I’m too pretty to receive.
Instead, you see all this so called beauty upon which you judge me:
Looking too good for you to see through to my truth.
My lies hide inside tunnels, only discovered by lighting them up with my beautiful bones.
Your eyes downcast rolling inside your shaking head in disbelief.
To you I’m just another junkie begging for a day without rain, without a pill to
Ease my pain, find me anonymously sweating in a red curtained opium den.

I am the Marine who comes home in a body bag without any glory, no pink procession, no honorable discharge.
You turn and march away, goose-stepping in formation waving goodbye to a familiar face in the crowd.
I bravely smile at you, while my raving mind searches for the stolen words I can’t find anymore.
You look down at me through a rifle’s sight, I find myself in the crosshairs.
Pull the trigger as I say goodbye.