Welcome Home: Parts 1-5

Every name breaks like thunder on someone’s home; and falls,
a long black shadow upon some hearthstone
The fire cools their hatred, as the war is lost. Reunited with brothers
from split cities.
drips from the mouth of god as he sleeps.
Nightmares of violence, while Americans weep.
A widowed soul, he misses his wife—humans,
once his playthings, only added more strife.
Rife with greed, man cuts down trees, spreads his seed, smokes that weed,
conquering until the world is his.
And when there’s no more to seize: it ends.


Watch the black cactus
scour the dunes, fraught for liquid life.
Xylem, phloem, and bundle sheaths engaged
in prayer. Tales of the now gaunt and ghostly cactus
complacent and zaftig are their biblical miracles. Jesactus the Cactus
turns the deserted ridges to sugar, splits the sands, bringing forth the power of water. Oasis.


Lust sits heavily on her eyelids. Coy expression asking
to come right in. She teases me and pulls away ever so
slightly, so as to catch me off guard when she presses her face against mine.
Surrounded by snow, the sound-proofed
world gleams white but nothing is bright enough
to steal my attention. Quickly covering her quivering self as strangers pass,
she falls with me to the soft-packed ground and soaks in a melting pool
of security and snow. Sometimes

cherries are her favorite fruit. The way the rounded, darkened cherries dimple
under the correct sunlight pleases her more than any man ever has.
The Sun’s eclipse, on her seventeenth birthday left her blind, when, like
the silly little fool she had always been
called, she stared deep into the dark black eyes of lost sight.
According to her hands, her still young and naïve hands, I am handsome. I am whole,
and real, and there.

John ventures home. He empties his cartridge, the last of the loaded, into the
garbage bag in front of him. The desert is empty—of hope, he thinks.
Then he crosses the border into Kuwait, and waits for the next plane
home. They’ve promised him at least two years before he must go to Afghanistan,
but we both know promises are only made to be broken.

A ragdoll perches on her shelf. CAR BOMB EXPLODES: EIGHT CIVILIANS DIE.
Her tank top slides off. PTSD RATES CLIMB FASTER THAN EVER. Then her
pants. WE WILL WIN THIS WAR. Then she cries.

John’s son stares into the mirror before him. The alcohol-infused
breath clouds the glass. His face is not there. His face is
missing. He is missing and the only thing left is his father:
distant eyes—those black eyes, reaching, clawing their way into his body.
First his face, then hands and soon into the long red tunnels, mining his insides for
a heart, but they can’t find one. They can’t find anything but
blood and copper.

John will be home in a month. I will be out in three weeks.
Funny how you can be OK then K.O; you’re done.
I am weak. I am meek. Where is my
inheritance? My rapture?
I brought his kid up, you know. I brought
his kid up, his child. My child.

I’ve never met him…John. She doesn’t talk about him.
Says it hurts too bad. She should say badly—
but I’ve never corrected her. Perfect. This is perfect.
She is perfect, well close. Blindness and bad grammar.
Blindness and bad grammar.
I’ve searched for others for years to help
to help me cope when I had to leave.
He should have died in Iraq like his brother.

Last week I bought cherries in a grocery store. She would have been happy


I had his name engraved
on the side of a ship anchored on the dock.
It wasn’t my ship, but it felt appropriate.

Candles burn—incandescent séance. The gypsy woman,
face marred with scars, takes me to my past.

Reloading. Reloading. Apache blood covers my face
I am here. I am War. I am. God, take me to the top of the volcano
dump me in. dump everything in. The wagon teeters.
Cholera cries its banshee war cry and my daughter is gone. Wail
for me. Wail for my daughter! —and they do. Like a howling dervish,
they spin and they scream for her, for me, and all I can do
is stare.

Stairmasters are the only true form of exercise left. This is whom I’ve hired.
The last person who still actually USES a Stairmaster.

Life after war is so hackneyed and fake. Without the fear of murder,
I am too drained to care. I am too prepared for the unrealistic,
the end of the world. We are all empty shells, waiting to be filled
with dust and sand and dirt and bugs—the real master class.
Linnaeus’ Insecta.

Rearing back, fighting back,
They came and they sold
they conquered for democracy. Yes that is indeed an oxy-

Moron. The man’s a moron.
Can’t spread it to the moon, so let’s take it to Iraq.
Stop Saddam and his sodomy of Justice.
That should have been our tagline. It’s quite a Pun
ched out like a work ticket. Like a “I’m done for the night”
Like a “th-th-th-that’s all folks.”
Porky the pig, the iconic American symbol—cowardice

I saw the Wizard of Oz last night. Laughed as the cowardly
lion couldn’t go five seconds without sniveling.
Sniffling, stifling my genius.
Get out of my head!

People say that the world is tough for returning soldiers.
They say that we need help and benefits and care
They do all this saying, all this talking, but the most
muscle in their body is the tongue. In all its brilliance, the tongue
doesn’t provide me with care, with support, with benefits.
I want. No. Rather, I need medicine; I need a doctor.
So stop with your pansy crap. I was there. I served, and now I need a little service in return.

Return me to the pasture
to the ignorance. Let me see my cow Sadie and kiss her
sweet nose hello. Let me chastise and scold those bold boys who tipped her over-
all, I have nothing left. Sadie died and my farm went to hell, so now
I’m just counting the days until I meet it there.

Back there, no not my farm,
we celebrated life. Sure while we enjoyed we destroyed,
but the gusto that we killed and shot and drank with
is rivaled only by Wal-Mart and its massacre of small
business is booming in war. Even now, after Iraq and Kim Jong Il’s death
lives are still a currency. Bodies have worth
and value. Shylock, in his terrifying genius, understood this perfectly.
Give me your heart, not your
ears, not your words, but your heart.

With that I put away my soapbox,
hell I put away my soap. Let me escape
to the wilderness, the mountains.
Banish me from this drivel, this garbage
I nearly died for. Creep up beside me and choke me.
Make my lungs pay for their smoking habits
Make me wish I could hold my breath longer, that I had
become a lifeguard in high school when it was offered, instead
of sitting at home smoking and laughing.

Work me like a dog. Lie with me in my sweat, in my stupor
and tell me everything will be ok. Everything will be grand.
Taste from my bottle. Stand on my shoulders and shout.

War is too distant from our society. Put down your guns
and pick up machetes! See the man you have just killed.
Really see him. Breathe in that corpse smell, that rotten stench. Hack
off his arms and put them in your child’s lunchbox for school tomorrow.
The pervasive, pungent odor earning your vomit, your bile,
sits with you forever.


Welcome to paradise. If blood makes you uncomfortable
I’d leave. There are vats of lime juice to the right, to mask the smell.
It is poured once and hour, on the hour…now? It’s 12:27.

God took Nyquil. Well, I gave it to him. Playing dirty
is still a way of playing. Pass me your bayonet so I can gouge out your eyes.
Tell me I’m handsome and real and there.
Love me for a while, here in the snow, in this bloody, sandy hell.
This is not a dream; this is not training.
Do not be afraid
of Death and his scythe. He was troubled once too. Embrace
yourself and this planet—this life that you live.
This is no place for jokes or doubts.
This is war.

August Rosenthal
Age 16, Grade 11
Berkeley Carroll School
Silver Key

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