Semper Fi

They all seem to have the same posture,
like they left the hanger in their shirt,
or they’re trying to peek over a refrigerator.

Then there’s the haircut,
strangest on my cousin’s head.
All his life I knew him to have
the biggest, thickest afro I’ve ever seen on a skinny white kid.

With his hair cut, he takes himself so seriously
and with his posture, others do, too.

It catches me equally off-guard to overhear
as he talks about drinking with his pals—
He’d seemed so asocial when we were growing up.

Not like my big brother,
who was extra-social:
a big man on campus
in our small-town high school.
His senior year being the time
that we smoked pot together
every morning before school,
every night before bed.

One of those nights, he told me,
before going back to his bedroom:
“This is it. This is what I’ll be doing, the rest of my life.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say
except, “here,”
my arm outstretched, my fingers pinching freedom,
as we understood it.

That’s what they stand for now—
jarheads, leathernecks—
our freedom,
as they understand it.

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