SOUTH CHINA SEA (June 13, 2015) Lightning strikes the water as San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) navigates between storms. The Essex Amphibious Ready Group is currently operating in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Liam Kennedy/Released)

When a Soldier Comes Home

by Sankara “Le Prince Héritier” Olama-Yai

He still treats me like a stranger
His eyes linger in the nightmares that torment
His solemn nights. He’s still at war, he never left
The battlefield. He was never meant to break
But I see the pieces of his old smile slowly
Crumbling. He’s howling at the moon in the nightfall
Unable to wash the blood from his calloused hands,
Desperately scraping them, yet it never comes off.
His depraved eyes look at me with bloodshot focus like
I’m another target. I want to understand his pain,
I want to know why he cries in his sleep,
I want to know the story behind each scar left
behind on his withered body
I feel his eyes stuck in the past, never present
there is no future in war
There’s only now, only survival for him, but we’re not
Fighting for our lives here—no, home should feel safe. He’s not
Hiding from a hail of bullets, he’s hiding from his family, hiding
that he’s quickly slipping like silk through loose fingers,
slipping from us. He came back hollow, his soul’s still trapped in that other world.
His hugs are tight but they feel lonely, I can’t piece together a
shattered heart. Sometimes he forgets to smile and I see
What he’s hid underneath, he’ll never wash the blood from underneath
His fingernails, it’s embedded within him,
his skin has turned crimson, he cries velvet tears
The harrowing ghost of men and women lost, have strangled his dreams,
Stolen a father and left an empty shell of a soldier, Leaving a wife and
Daughter living with a man they may never know