“Standing Under”

by Rachel Asworth

You don’t understand, he said.
Unless you know the smell of the desert,
When the sand melts under mortar shells.
You don’t understand what death tastes like
On your tongue when it’s been so long
My tongue doesn’t remember yours
Or the taste that lingered after a hasty kiss.
You don’t understand, he said.
The way the mountains were the only thing
That looked like home, but once home,
All I longed for were those mountains
And the men that marched them with me.
How the gun on my hip was brother,
And the rifle in hand was mother,
And Father was someone to whom
Hasty prayers were whispered, while running,
And falling, but never kneeling.
You don’t understand, he said.
That the demons that share our bed, don’t leave
When the sun comes up, but you just can’t see them
Once the trembling man is up and gone.
The demons walk with me to work, he said.
They linger at the door,
They see I turn the key,
And lock you out because you won’t understand,
How just putting the gun to my head
Will make it easier to sleep tonight,
Even if I don’t pull the trigger.
You don’t understand that some days
It’s harder not to squeeze that trigger,
That the weight of my life in my hands
For once,
When it hasn’t been my life for so long,
Is the most liberating feeling in the world.
It’s the most weightless feeling in the world.
It’s the most sleek, cool feeling in the world
Against the hot fire in my chest, my face, my head.
You don’t understand, he said.
That you’d move on, and find someone
Who wouldn’t bring demons to the dinner table
To devour the happiness while
The children eat their macaroni.
You’d move on, he said,
And I’d be as forgotten as Vietnam,
And Korea,
And Pearl Harbor.
You’d pick a day to remember me by,
Maybe two,
And the demons would have a weekend pass,
But not a lifetime or life support
And support groups.

You don’t understand, I say.