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The Parade

By Ben Nadler

Poem

I

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.

II

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.

III

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.

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Ben Nadler BEN NADLER is the author of the novel, Harvitz, As To War (Iron Diesel Press, 2011), and the poetry chapbook, The Men Who Work Under The Ground (Keep This Bag Away From Children Press, 2012). The Men Who Work under The Ground was recently the focus of a multimedia exhibition organized by The Occupational Art School and Human Relations Books, featuring artists such as Paul McLean, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, and Will Crofoot.

Ben's poetry has appeared in publications such as Harpur Palate, Fairy Tale Review, and Occupy Writers. Other writing of his has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as The Rumpus, Mandala Journal, and Pravic. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and teaches writing at The City College of New York.

One Response to “The Parade”

  1. MA Riley says:

    The hanging baskets should have stopped us and saved him.

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