Faces of Duty

This poem relates the stories of 15 sets of photographs that you can find here. They are the faces of soldiers before, during, and after deployment. These are of course my own reactions to the faces, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the lives of these soldiers. Just poetic impressions, meaning dredged out of the ether to try to make sense of the changes in the faces over time.

1. I am seen,
regarded with cold eyes:
then gone.

2. A quiet man,
intense regard:
blood-hardened lips would scream if they could.

3. Yes, sir!
I’ll do it, I’ll do it:
oh my god, what I’ve done.

4. I believe in what I do,
and duty does not unwind that:
having done, I’m still here.

5. Proud,
unquestioning:
I can’t see behind me.

6. As plain as rhubarb pie,
I can see through walls:
oh my god, what I’ve seen.

7. I defy you—
no, I’ve defied myself:
like a boy to a man.

8. As open as a book,
as closed as a fist:
as confused as a jilted lover.

9. Yeah, sure;
I was never really there:
I never really came back.

10. Not sure at all,
scared, brave:
too raw to cry.

11. Whatever.
Don’t feel a thing:
wounded.

12. Firmly resolved,
in command:
Over. It’s over. It’s really over.

13. Tight-lipped innocence,
fooled by nightmares:
just tight now.

14. Maybe I could;
but this:
Check: endured.

15. Yeah, let’s go;
even sidestepping risks:
I never found Home again.

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