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Selective Service

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We rise from the snow where we’ve
lain on our backs and flown like children,
from the imprint of perfect wings and cold gowns,   
and we stagger together wine-breathed into town   
where our people are building
their armies again, short years after
body bags, after burnings. There is a man
I’ve come to love after thirty, and we have   
our rituals of coffee, of airports, regret.   
After love we smoke and sleep
with magazines, two shot glasses
and the black and white collapse of hours.   
In what time do we live that it is too late   
to have children? In what place
that we consider the various ways to leave?   
There is no list long enough
for a selective service card shriveling   
under a match, the prison that comes of it,   
a flag in the wind eaten from its pole   
and boys sent back in trash bags.
We’ll tell you. You were at that time   
learning fractions. We’ll tell you
about fractions. Half of us are dead or quiet   
or lost. Let them speak for themselves.
We lie down in the fields and leave behind   
the corpses of angels.

Carolyn Forché, “Selective Service” from The Country Between Us. Copyright © 1981 by Carolyn Forché. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Source: The Country Between Us (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1982)
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Selective Service

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