and in between the rise and fall of your chest,
I pleaded the morning wouldn’t wake you
That the war wouldn’t come creeping
and rip you coldly from the covers.
I know how you must have paced just the same,
all this while, waiting on me overseas,
hoping I’d come back home.
I am here now, beside you in the dark,
tracing the muscles in your back
and thinking of how you will sleep:
first in hotel beds, and in the backseat of trucks,
in aisle seats on airplanes, next to a stranger
who will become like your brother
on a stiff cot set on foreign ground.
Your brown sugar eyes will drift and see slideshows
in bullets – gunfire only God knows. Even if I hand-
wrote it in letters and cut through crosswire
they wouldn’t know: how your shallow breaths
come in threes as you doze, or
your feet that twitch just on the cusp of sinking.
And they don’t care if you wake.
They will count you like numbered sheep.
And as you’ll be lacing your boots for another day,
I will toss in the currents of an uncertain slumber
with a dial tone sleeping against my ear.
No heat of a body cradling my backbone,
no awkward arm or hot breath on my neck,
just hair-raised skin drenched from the soldiered
sweat of a distant dream, trying to find
a way back home.
Kara Knickerbocker is a writer from Saegertown, Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. in English from Westminster College in 2012. Her poetry and essays have been published or are forthcoming in print and online publications including: Construction, Longridge Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and the anthology Voices from the Attic Volume XXII, among others. She lives in Pittsburgh, where she works at Carnegie Mellon University and writes with Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic workshops. Find more of her at https://karaknickerbocker.com.