In the final hour before the break of day
when the darkness demonstrates a rare
humility and all the earth appears to be
still, a boy who had never before laundered
his clothes presses his Sunday shirt in sacred
silence. His mother secretly watches, her hands
trembling with adrenaline. His father stares
at nothing, sees less. Their bearing is their
sackcloth and ashes. The boy has volunteered
for war. At 10:36 a.m., he will be a man,
eighteen, three years too young to lift a pint
to his lips but old enough to kill another.
It was emotion that led him to this moment,
a similar sentiment that leads to false and
faithless conversions. Music is powerful to
sway. The trumpet is a siren; the drum speaks to
the heart. At their appointed time, the deceived
will hear, “I never knew you; depart from Me.”
The boy had never been in a fist fight, had
never known a rite of passage, had never run
a mile, had no reason to believe he could become
a soldier. Boys do not come out as soldiers,
not from the womb, not from a closet. Soldiers
are made and that is what his mother is afraid of
almost as much as a chaplain and a flag-draped
coffin. A boy made to kill, sent to kill, is killed.
To one, it is balance that keeps the world spinning
even in still times. To another, it is heroic. But
to a father and a mother pretending to be stoic,
it is exactly what it suggests itself to be. It is a body
telling a spirit, “I never knew you; depart from me.”
The tragedy lies in the faithfulness of the spirit.
Thomas Locicero’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Roanoke Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Long Island Quarterly, The Good Men Project, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Jazz Cigarette, Quail Bell Magazine, Antarctica Journal, Rat’s Ass Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Hobart, Ponder Review, vox poetica, Poetry Pacific, Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal, Indigo Lit, Saw Palm, Fine Lines, New Thoreau Quarterly, Birmingham Arts Journal, Clockwise Cat, Snapdragon, fēlan, The Ghazal Page, Red Savina Review, Better Than Starbucks, Poetry Quarterly, The Write Launch, Bindweed Magazine, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Abyss & Apex, Avocet, and Speculative 66, among other journals. He lives in Broken Arrow, OK, USA.