His face wide as home plate, cap on backward, I noted
that backwardness, the way he took it off his left
hand reaching back as if his neck were sore taking
it by the brim leaving his cow licks saluting.
Almost young enough that the voice of the boy scout
singing the anthem could be coming from him. If I
squinted to remove comparisons I might mistake
him for a boy, might smooth his ruddy cheeks.
When I smoothed, I moved right past his missing
hand and placed a phantom limb over his heart.
His arm stopped before the wrist, not enough
to wear a watch, enough to spell semper fi in tattoo.
His puckered keloid...and I hesitate to use stump
but what other word? Arm does not grasp the loss,
vambrace too obscure, stump seems almost epithet,
he calls it meat puppet, but I don't know this.
All I know is he can't reach his heart, his missing
hand still there for him, to cover his heart, to honor
our nation, to yank Corporal Ben's torso from the fire
and wipe the hard stripes of ash from his eyes.
So much still there; the muscle memory, the routine,
the neurons and worn synapses, so much of his mind
is still there, so much more there than the WMDs,
more than the mission, more than the truth.
You'd know by the angle of his elbow a thumbs up,
an OK, a salute, or when he bites his not there nails,
presses his eye with the empty of his palm. Even
the ump knows which phantom finger he's getting.
But I think if he looked down, he'd adjust so the fi
would cover his heart the way it does when he's
curled on his side, knees close to his chest, trying
to sleep, his meat puppet hugging him close.