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After Abu Ghraib

Not to complain, she says, but just to tell--
and keep it down kids, that's an awful clatter--
after suppers now she tweezes shrapnel
out of Vinny's back, a routine matter.

He's doing good, she says, his limp's improving.
He's drinking less and looking for some work.
If all goes well, soon they will be moving
off the army base and back home to West Burke.

The shards will just keep coming, though,
the smoother pellets and the jagged spikes.
She glides them from his body clean and slow.
He's quiet but she thinks that's what he likes.

She puts the pieces in a Mason jar
to stow among her staples and preserves,
an emblem right as any stripe or star.
She doesn't pledge these days but she observes.

I wonder, cousin, if your Vinny's plight
mirrors in a way these times we're in.
Our nation's coping well enough, all right,
but are we being torn at from within?

Unceasingly, the souvenirs of terror--
fury, blind vindictiveness and fright--
lead us into infamy and error.
One by one the fragments come to light.

by Kate Bernadette Benedict