POW

Poet: Kristopher James-Wilcox of Ball State University


At 19 you and my grandmother had my Uncle Reese

At 19 you signed up for the war because you wanted to make a difference

You wanted to live in a world where your kids could grow up and be proud to be proud and Black in America

At 19 you joined the marines and became a Green Beret

You believed if you wore green, people may for a split second stop seeing your black

At 19 you remember being called “nigger” and “boy” in Louisiana

So when you drill sergeant and commanding officer tell you that’s your new first and last name, you realize Jim Crow’s followed you to the Midwest, even though he “died” when you were 5

At 19 you promised one of many loves of your life that you were coming back home to them

At 19 you went to Nam

At 19 you still had hope

At 19 you lost what was left

At 19 you saw a grenade in the shape of a baby huh your best friend and take him to kingdom come.

At 19 you put down a woman covered in blood and filth; her baby in one arm and an AR-47 in the other.

At 19 you saw so much death, you felt numb, as if opium was hitting your blood stream for the first time

At 19 you had Agent Orange dropped on you twice

At 19 you were captured

 

At 20

You won’t tell us what happened to you at 20

At 21

You won’t tell us what happened to you at 21

 

At 22 you came home

You came home with a purple heart

You came home with the misery burned into your memories, embedded in your faculties, your and their savagery on loop, marathoning your sins

You came home with the paranoia of loud noises, the sight of helicopters and even the sight of who we now call, “Asian Americans”

You came home to a country that didn’t want you home

You came home to a country that not only hated your black, but also hated your green too

You came home from one war just to fight another

You came home with a fear of ever being vulnerable again, and a determination to prevent that at any cost, even the price of your family

You came home with your patriotism bled out in the jungle and left to rot

You came home to people you didn’t recognize, but they called themselves your loved ones

You came home with a dark passenger hitching a ride in your subconscious and body

 

At 23 you had my mother

At 26 she had me

At 16 you and I met

At 17 you saw me graduate high school

At 21 you came home

At 21 you came home

At 21 you came home

 

Thank you for coming home soldier.

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