Feathers for the Fallen

In Memoriam, Private Hugh McDowall (1895-1918)

These paper poppies pinned on striped lapels,
(The ‘patriotic fashion’ thing to do,)
No longer linking flowers with the hells.
How do they remember you?

Assurances your grieving widow seeks:
“Shot in the heart, …


I saw Achilles in Lafayette Park.
His helmet, a soppy mess of smeared ink,
was catching the rain as he hid,
and sporting headlines of his own making.
He kept his heel in a brown paper bag,
kissing it often …

Casualty Notification Officer

We send a starched and solemn officer
up to the decorated door and lock
to give the living news about the dead
with four-sharp-re-ports of a volleyed knock.

Most families understand: they see my car
ease to their curb like …

Two Poems by Lisa Houlihan Stice

Widows Receive a Free Ticket to the Birthday Ball


Shadows of the fallen ones
crowd the black-draped table—
a single chair
for all who joined
one long history—
vigilant rose and flame,
sword and gloves at rest,
a purple …

quiet as TOC-rats

the talk in the TOC is just talk
and the sergeant major wants it quiet —
more church than circus tent.

we’re not the brains of the operation;
we’re more like a nervous system.
we keep things running, and people …

dust bunnies and combat boots

The not-a-prayer rug
beside my Army bunk
guards bare soles at night.

Pictograms of Kalashnikovs,
grenades, and A.P.C.s
are part of its bazaar tapestry.

DFAC peanut butter
laces the spring I have
set under my cot, next to my boots.…

night vision

Our Afghan brothers cannot see past the ramp
into the black wide open that is
only feet away beneath the turn of our rotors.

Our goggle eyes paint the dark
green with spinny lights and ghosts,
a Van Gogh on …

Haibun: A Soldier to Himself

When you have some free time, walk a mile in the desert. Walk many more miles. Let the laughter of soldiers diffuse behind you, like a handful of sand dropped into the Kabul. Walk the desert like the saints did, …