Winter 2010

The Other Man Responds

Curtis Meyer

Staff Sergeant Patrick Thomas is scheduled to return to Jacksonville, Florida in November 2009 after serving two months in Iraq with the U.S. Air Force.

In the meantime, his girlfriend Anne Schollard is showing her support by taking a life-size cardboard cut-out of Thomas wearing sunglasses and a bathing suit almost everywhere she goes, posing with it, and emailing him photos from various locales as part of what she calls “Operation: Perk up Patrick.”

I like to imagine I’m less cut-out, more voodoo doll;
That every night, when you purr softly into my ear and kiss my cheek
somewhere your lover’s face is developing an imprint of lipstick
he passes off as a battle-scar

When you take me out to the beach or the mall,
carrying me under your arm like an obscene surfboard,
I hope he feels your hands gently on his side; A strap on his shoulder
when you position me with the controller for Guitar Hero
in place of an automatic weapon

I understand you need me like a puzzle piece
to fit that part of your life that’s missing, like the empty space
in your bed harbors a chalk-line, but of all the places you’ve taken me –
the airport, the bottom of caves, in front of the Golden Gate Bridge –
I wonder most if I’ll ever know what it’s like with bouquets and picture frames,
standing next to his flag-draped casket

If you could see behind my sunglasses,
you’d know I have foxholes for eye sockets

Maybe, if there isn’t enough of him left
at the end of this, they’ll bury me instead

Call it a hunch, but I think it’ll take more than photos of old ladies kissing my cheeks,
friends giving me high fives, or a cut-out of the president
poised to look like we’re shaking hands to cheer him up

Tell me, are you in love with the man, or just his image?

You told the reporter the best thing about me is,
He doesn’t talk back; He doesn’t argue
Consider yourself lucky – If my lips knew language,
they would never stop screaming

Sometimes I dream that I’m falling,
my arms refusing to pull the string of the parachute on my back

Other times, I’m surrounded by barbwire,
strapped by sheets to a cot covered in scorpions

In another dream, I’m in a war-zone under fire:
My feet rendered immobile as voices yell commands –
Run, they can’t hit a moving target – as a barrage hits me,
a swarm of killer bees leaving a constellation of bullet-holes
across the contours of my cardboard soul, while a continent away, a man –
a real man, who looks just like me – wakes up in bed to red streaks
dripping down his naked chest like stripes on a flag; Blood bubbling
at the base of his throat until its pours out his mouth like a fountainhead

Most of all, I wonder
what he thinks of all this:
Does he ever wish he could return the favor;
Send a postcard with your facsimile in front of tanks,
in the company of trauma units tending to charred bodies,
amongst the flames of roadside wreckage
from vehicles destroyed by suicide bombers,
a caption inscribed at the bottom: Dear Anne –

wish you were here.