Wash
—After reading a news account of a soldier’s mother who learned to keep his clothes unwashed.

Sunil Freeman

They wash the scent away; his clothes come clean,
no blood or sweat, just fading memories.
Her baby’s hair she kissed on summer days,
the creek bank mud that stained his old blue jeans,
the blood from Little League—the hard slide home
that won a game so long ago, the cheers
and how he didn’t cry, his leg scraped raw.
“There was a child went forth,” Walt Whitman said.
He could have been that boy ten years ago;
his senses all embraced the world, but now
a man. And Whitman knew his war up close
before they washed the scent away he told it
hard, with grief, but not as mean as those
who’d fly the bodies back at night, unseen.

 

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