they circle, lattice of camaraderie pattern-worn
like the lawn chairs cupping them close to earth.
unready to test their strength on children
grown and birthed in the space left by their absence,
fingers curl around cans and bottles
savoring what was out of reach.
hours ago they stood taut while
a hundred flags waved welcome home,
buffeted by the gravity of air.
as light withdraws to the horizon
disgust films their conversation, filling the crevices
with dogs cowering away from masters' fists
mules brutally kicked to hurry their toil
women barely glimpsed behind cloth
lies like dust on the road.
one dangles proof of inhumanity, a farmer
demanding dollars for a dead goat
while the blood of his son, caught
in the same mortar blast as the slain
animal, still waters the tired fields.
they care more about the goats they beat than
their children, he spits upon the driveway.
another, eyes circling the wet stain,
says perhaps the man did not know
what price to name,
then rises and drains the dark glass in three long pulls.