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Mother and Son
A good mother is unpacking her son's things.
He has been at war.
He is showering now, down the hallway.
In a moment he will return,
wrapped in the ugly towel that massaged his scalp dry as an infant.
The washer two floors below has beaten it to a threadbare puce.
At the airport she said "the sun has ripened you".
(For years she had smothered him in lotion,
afraid that he might one day bubble up with cancer.
She had shuffled him into the shade,
and he would throw her glances like a scattering of blue beads.)
His enlistment was no surprise.
As a child he had paced the exhibits in Washington;
his mother particularly regretted the "Weapons Through History" room;
this was of course silent, unfounded regret.
On the outskirts of Najaf he lost a friend.
(He remembered Tutankhamun from grade school,
and wondered how it was to be embalmed in the oil of trees.)
When he was fifteen years old he gave her a drawing she assumed was of St. Peter.
Now she pulls from his suitcase a paper,
which when held up to the light shows
an old woman and a ram’s head, forcibly sketched,
with “desolation” written in the corner.
These were two different artists.