A hundred of us
stood in tidy rows
at parade rest
outside brigade headquarters.
At the base of the formation
stood a man with only one leg.
In his running shorts, PT jacket, and reflective belt
(required of all soldiers in the physical training uniform
for jogging down the road
in the pre-dawn a.m.)
he balanced on his one leg of meat and bone
and on the other of titanium,
a slender rod with a single joint at the knee,
capped at the ankle with a sneaker.
the sergeant major stepped out to inspect us.
He got a look at the one-legged man,
shook his head,
“I know why you’re here.”
He shook the man’s hand,
wished him all the best
Then he turned to the rest of us broken people
for why it was
we didn’t work.
*In the army, a medical profile is provided when a soldier suffers from an injury or illness which prevents full participation in military duties.
Ryan Edel is currently a Ph.D. student in English Studies at Illinois State University, and he received his MFA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins in 2010. He has previously served five years in the U.S. Army, including three years with the 82nd Airborne and a ten-month deployment to Afghanistan. He is also the founder of 12Writing, an online source for creative writing resources.