I spent Veterans Day on my couch
watching a video about Jacob
on the New York Times website.
The topic was suicide in the military.
Jacky was the poster boy, they showed
videos of him singing sad songs
in his tent in Iraq. He’d been called up
from Individual Ready Reserve, sent over
to guard oil trucks on the highway.
I paced around my apartment
opening a beer, splinting the big tomato plant
with bits of plastic and string, listening
as the dutiful reporter explained
how Jake’s friends had turned into ghosts.
I only knew him that one summer,
in Williamsburg. He was a veteran
already, Kosovo, though it was hard
to believe because he was skinnier
than me, even. The tattoo of music notes
on his wrist and the shrapnel scar on his cheek
did not make sense on the same body.
He was kind and sad and played the guitar.
I saw him run into a burning house,
something I’d ever seen anyone do.
He pulled his shirt up over his face,
shouldered open the door. Smoke poured out.
Jake rushed in. In that moment of action,
I suddenly believed he was a soldier.
Another November, and the American
troops are marching out of Baghdad.
Jake is buried down south, with the others
from the 1451st, and the video
about their problems is deep in the archives.
No one alive has seen the hanging gardens
Nebuchadnezzar built for Amutys,
and no one will remember what the Green Zone
looked like. Sand will cover all the ashes.
It will be like America was never there.