inspired by a Diane Arbus photograph and the impending Iraq War
Before they slapped stars and stripes
on your chest and thrust a gun into your arms.
Before they prepped you on when to pull the pin
and showed you sites you could never forget.
Before they expected you to kill for the freedom
you felt your duty to protect.
When the hallow grenade gripped
in your hands brought death only in war games
and the enemy resuscitates
by being called home for lunch.
Years later, hungry for those scabbed
knee days, they come calling
for your blood's blood and march
him off to wade in the desert.
For this fatherland that abandoned their mistakes
in your scarred and empty palms.
This fatherland that welcomed you back
with crossed arms and turned heads.
poem and photo copyright Robert P. Langdon