She’d stopped counting the weeks and months
the stingy calendar doled out. Diminished
by tears, her anguish had dimmed some,
feelings that had raged like rain-swelled rapids,
about how he enlisted, leaving her and children
like orphans. Recruiters had pumped him
with speeches and patriotic songs, pretty
girls and liquor. But he would learn, verse
by daily verse, the gospel of war she’d taken
on testimony and faith—that war makes
a terrible mistress, tempting men with glory
and glamour, but feeding them empty bellies,
weary bones, bloody memories and mangled
bodies, and if fate chose them, a ticket home
with traumatized minds or missing limbs.
Not knowing gnawed her mind, through gray
days and blue nights, ate away hope, chewed her
body to bones and sinew, her soul to a shrunken
shadow. A knapsack of questions nagged like
whiny children, tugging the dress tail of her sanity:
Was he hurt or whole? When would he write?
Would he ever return?