While he was gone, Mrs. Jeffers wanted someone around
who knew her son. So Mary went. Mostly to see
his trophy case. Mostly to trail the tension of her skin
along the etched brass that witnessed his victories.
Her palm cry quieted there, touching those lost spaces
inside his name. Mrs. Jeffers thought he’d joined up
for freedom. Mrs. Jeffers didn’t know her son.
She thought he would come home directly. But he didn’t
go straight home the day he crossed the line
with nothing but his name. Instead, he’d thrown gravel
at Mary’s window, and when she came running
to the yard, he told her why he’d joined. The recruiter promised
nothing more than a rifle, a backpack, and a hard time.
He told her no one had ever been straight with him before.
Then he kissed her. Kissed her like a man would kiss a woman,
after their children were asleep, if just that night,
his father’s noble battle lost, he’d held his body while he died.