War comes to visit me once a day.
I can't get rid of him.
He's grown old and hates himself.
I stopped a quarter-century ago,
but he still drinks — sits in airport bars
and watches the cocky uniforms
line up at the departure gates.
Desert camouflage this time, tan boots.
He orders another double and snickers,
little eyes set close together
in too large a head, like a grizzly's,
opaque and dead. Flies swarm
around his gore-smeared muzzle.
He stinks of corpse. I let him sleep in the garage.
You see, there's no way to make him leave.
Go to war just once, he's always with you.
At breakfast he feels like he's got
an ice pick in his head, swears off the stuff.
Never again, he says, I've found God.
By five he's back in the blood glow of the bar,
bumming drinks and telling lies.
He's got an eye for boys and girls
with wallets full of combat pay.
He'll Mickey Finn them,
roll them for their souls and go off giggling.
I see Senator Goldmouth weaving
down the bar to slap him on the back:
Let freedom ring! says he,
teeth twinkling from the neon at the bar.
from What Saves Us
edited by Martin Espada
Northwestern University Press