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Veterans of the Seventies

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His army jacket bore the white rectangle   
of one who has torn off his name.  He sat mute   
at the round table where the trip-wire veterans   
ate breakfast.  They were foxhole buddies   
who went stateside without leaving the war.   
They had the look of men who held their breath   
and now their tongues.  What is to say
beyond that said by the fathers who bent lower   
and lower as the war went on, spines curving   
toward the ground on which sons sat sandbagged   
with ammo belts enough to make fine lace   
of enemy flesh and blood.  Now these who survived,   
who got back in cargo planes emptied at the front,
lived hiddenly in the woods behind fence wires   
strung through tin cans.  Better an alarm   
than the constant nightmare of something moving   
on its belly to make your skin crawl   
with the sensory memory of foxhole living.

Poem copyright © 2007 by Marvin Bell, and reprinted from Mars Being Red, Copper Canyon Press, 2007, by permission of the author and publisher. The poem first appeared in Gettysburg Review, Summer, 2007.
Source: 2007
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Veterans of the Seventies

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