Tour of Duty

I lost my innocence one night in September of 1987.
The television screen was blank,
through the speakers came the sound
of a lone guitar and static,
drums began to beat and I saw the jungle.
“Paint it, Black” began and I knew war,
a concept I could never have thought of on my own
and would never again escape.
I saw men die on that show and felt my first loss,
I would later learn what real loss was
though it wasn’t because of a known enemy,
it wasn’t fighting for freedom
or the liberation of a far away people.
My father never came home that night
and though I asked for his death
I never imagined his absence
would be marked by others,
while my eyes were fixed dry
on the box that held his ashes.
This was death removed from dinner entertainment,
this was where I came from in a box
and I wanted to run my hands through him,
feel the flakes of carbon run across my skin
and imagine that one day I would be in a box.
The flag came in a box,
tightly folded with a letter stamped
with the signature of William Clinton.
This was my legacy,
this artifact of what my father once was,
this symbol that meant only war to me.
I imagined caskets full of soldiers
draped with this flag and knew
that my father no more deserved this flag than I did.
My innocence was lost when I saw this flag
covering the bodies of men riddled with bullets,
my innocence was worth more than this,
more than a letter from a man I would never know.
I refused to bought off with red, white and blue,
with stars and stripes, and a thank you for your father’s service.
My mind was painted black,
and with illusions no longer in place
I made anguish realized on that flag.
That flag that I placed on my bedroom floor,
that flag that I drew on with a Sharpie marker,
writing words and symbols
that caused my grandmother to walk away
shaking her head in confusion.
I imagined the ink bleeding through the fabric,
like his blood bled through to the dirt below
and the blood of those that believed in that symbol
had soaked the jungle floors
in a television show many years before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *