Night Duty


A cigarette dangling from his lips,
he listened to life pass him by:
TV playing repeats, crime shows,
rolling credits; cops get their man;
kids in the next room, hollering

about some cartoon jackal twisting
its carcass across the noon-day sun;
his wife laying next to him, white-washed,
her eyes blank as a fragged bone-moon,
sipping vodka neat, cracked bottle

slipping round her thin fleshed breasts;
her unkempt hair blanched and stringy
falling down below the rat’s nest
clumped bangs of her natty
unwashed hair; outside an ambulance

sirens blazing; dogs splaying, braying,
keeping music to the night’s
brash howls; and, he sitting there
thinking to himself life must be
going on elsewhere; beyond here.

He polished the gun all shiny,
the one he’d brought back
from that war; put the bullets
back in one by one, got up
off the unmade bed, thought

about his wife and kids, maybe
giving each a kiss; but knew
it didn’t matter now, nothing did;
they were as dead as he; he stepped out
of the apartment, walked to the edge

of the balcony, watched
traffic four stories below,
thought about all those dead
he’d left in Iraq, his friends
and mates, comrades, men

who did not deserve their fate,
all finding in that devil land
a terrible price, answering
that strange call, a patriot’s life,
such lies we live;  and, now,

just like all those fallen soldiers
who fought and died so hard,
who still wander through his mind
each night accusing him of life,
flicked the cigarette butt against the night.

He laughed. Picked up that gun,
pulled the trigger…

At the funeral a man in a uniform
gave his wife the American flag.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


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