by Jeremy Stainthorp Berggren

And who knew - that our bodies, outstretched –
Inverted asanas
Right side
Necks taut
With tight nooses.
His father found him
In the garage & lifting him
Held him in his arms –
We are dying.

We are dying.

And who knew - that our bodies,
Silent and still in
This...shavasana –
Corpse pose
With palms up, body
Like dead weight
Against the ground.
Say what you will Petty, Officer
Say what you will Master Sergeant
Say what you will Lieutenant Colonel
Say what you will airman of the year –
– You raped them – And
Now they’re lyin’ lifeless on the floor
With palms up, sticky with pills
And wrists bloody breathin’ slowing,
Now stopped.
We dyin’ man, we dyin’

We are dying for clarity,
And purpose.
We are dying for memories, and flashbacks.
We are dying, to tell
The truth.

And who knew that our bodies swayin’ in the wind
Were cautionary tales of war and violence
And who knew that
Up. Meant seroquel tinged - heart palpitations,
These cocktailed concoctions,
so if we don’t die by our hands
We’ll just die in our sleep.
And who knew that one shot one kill meant a bullet
Through your brain or a bullet through your heart,
you’re a thousand miles away
In your own backyard.

Bohica 6 Delta Come in, Come in!
Bohica 6 Delta Come in, Come in!

Your moms about to see
Your boots draggin’ in the mud

While you’re hangin’ there lifeless swayin’ from above

And a thousand emotions are running through your mind
Still starin’ at the aftermath
Staring at his face –
Swollen left side cheek disfigured –
Black body in dress blues squared away,
In a flag draped casket.
For what?

Years before,
Your father found you, on Father’s Day.
Swollen left side cheek disfigured
Poison strewn all around –
And a bullet through your heart.
Were you with us, when we buried you,
That day?
You’re buried deep,
Stuck, back
In the belly of
My memories - Demons –
Swirling around like violent dry heaves –
And I can’t seem,
To let,
You go.

I’m still
Just trying
To figure out who to fight.

Ten years later and I’m still,
Just learning...
How to grieve.
I see your lifeless body, before mine
In my deepest meditations you float –
Facing before me.
God damn.
Can you hear me?
I am struggling,
Stepping nearly faithless forward –
Simply trying, not to fall.
But it’s still happening...
I am still.
Just trying.
To follow.
Your lead.

Memorial Day Letter by Jeff Key

To the Family and Friends of Cpl. Douglas Marenco-Reyes,

Yesterday the most sobering moment of this war came for me when I received the news. I did not think this war could get more real for me but now it has. As I drove to the scene, my first thoughts were of you, his loved ones back in the states and of my own family whom I love so much. I miss them terribly as I know that Douglas missed you, but my being separated from them, for a time, is a testament of my love for them. Douglas is now separated from you, for a time, but that separation is a testament of his love for you. When I arrived at the scene, the first thing I noticed when I turned off my engine was how peaceful it was. To tell you the truth you can drive for miles and miles out here and see nothing but brown dirt but this place was actually beautiful. Two small streams met there and a breeze was blowing so the sun sparkled on the waters. On the edges grew small shrubs, bright green and bursting with new life. From their branches came the song of what sounded like a hundred birds. I think I know for whom they sang. The marines had already made a small cross and placed it at water's edge. It had a sign with his name on it and at the foot of the cross they had placed some of their personal items; a little bible opened to the twenty-third Psalm and held there against the wind with stones, a headband soaked with sweat, a religious medallion. I wrote a note and had the marines traveling with me to sign. It said "No greater love hath mortal man than to lay down his life for a friend" I knelt to pay my respects and left the note there with the other items. The truck Douglas was driving was carrying bottles of water for the marines. They were scattered about the desert floor. I bent over and picked one up. It was hot to the touch from the blistering sun. I looked back over at the tiny cross and realized that water was for me. I removed the cap, toasted him, and drank it all down. Under my breath I thanked him, "Gracias por el agua, mi hermano. Semper Fi."

In addition to my other duties, I am also the company bugler. Since I became a marine, I have been asked to play taps dozens of times, for dignitaries, Congressional Medal of Honor winners, Purple Heart recipients, veterans from every major military conflict since WWII. Last night I played taps for Douglas...and it meant more than it ever has...for this time it was for one of our own. May God bless you and keep you in your hour of great sorrow. All My Sympathy, LCpl Jeff Key, USMC.

American Martyrs
by Garett Reppenhagen

Red, white, and blue,
another folded triangle.
A rifle, some boots.
Dog tags that jangle,
like chimes in the wind,
that absolve away sin.
A lone empty chair,
at the dinner table.

Marching in grace,
boot heels that clack.
Present arms, Taps,
rifles that crack.
A well dressed soldier,
presenting me over,
to a crying mother
dressed all in black.

Children stand by,
naive of their fate.
Are paths predetermined?
Will they take the bait?
A boy steps from the line.
It’s a matter of time.
Before he makes an oath,
and Death marks a date.

Medals and ribbons,
and names on a wall.
Statues and movies.
Pictures hung in a hall.
Books about history,
parades on anniversaries,
beckons the youth
to answer the call.

Driven by legend,
the glory of war.
Sharpen the swords,
beat drums once more.
It must run in the blood,
to die in the mud.
I’ll never understand
what this memorial’s for.

by Chante Wolf
In memoriam to the 475th Quartermaster Group,Dhahran, SA., 1991
Published in Minnesota Women's Press, 2019

    my guilt is entombed in this memory
King Fahd sirens quiver. . . i n c o m i n g
    Dhahran is unconsciously off key
missile passes Fahd like a shooting star
    penetrates in starburst on Dhahran
we cheer take selfies
    they pose naked with wings of despair
we continue poker games
    they inhale flaming fiberglass and shrapnel
our music resumes
    their rescue lights dance with Death off broken glass
I hesitate with superficial letters home
    dying they beg. . . ‘please. . . don’t forget’
few sleep until the next alarm

Grand Theater
By Chante Wolf
For Ronald, Desert Storm, 1991

did voices from history
float on carpets

navigated by Ali Baba
whisper promises of glory

seduce your heart
stir your soul

with ancient visions of
battles Lawrence fought

galloping onto your
dreamworld platform

of imaginary games to
escape your dull reality

as you pulled
your 9mm and fired

chambered bullet bullseye
center stage of your

best buddy’s forehead
with letters from home

clutched in his
heartsick hands

clearing forever
your grand theater