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The Sleeves are Too Big

I look at his face in the fading picture
Poking out from the pages of the newspaper.

His eyes are eager, his cheeks rosy.
In his face is a whisper of daringness,

In his eyes, the curiosity of a child.
At the thought of that word, child--

His face, his body, his frame
Begin to shrink in my mind.

His camouflage pants bunch up at his ankles.
The gun drags down at his side,

Suddenly too heavy, much
too heavy for his frail figure.

I notice that his right shoelace is untied.
And somehow this detail strikes me

Deep inside my stomach,
Punches me with the insanity

Of war, of soldiers who are really just children,
Of armies and hate and bodies wrapped in flags

And screaming mothers and broken fathers,
And a nation left with holes,

The absences of people just as present and real
As those who walk the streets.

The sleeves of his uniform are
Too big for his arms,

Like a child playing dress-up;
But his army badge is real.

And so with guns that are not filled with water
And tanks that are bigger than G.I. Joe toys

He fights and he shoots and
He kills.

Bullets pierce the flesh of the enemy,
Yet another suffers wounds--

Looking out of a fading picture
With a shoe left untied, and sleeves that are too big.




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