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Poem of the Week: November 11, 2018

Hello readers! Every week, BOA's staff and interns share one of our favorite poems from our over 300 collections of poetry. In honor of Veterans Day, this week's poem is from Hugh Martin's brand new collection, In CountryStay tuned to the BOA Blog for an exclusive interview on with Hugh Martin about his new book tomorrow.

Service 

Bright with light, the flag
ripples on the Jumbotron
as they ask those who’ve served

to stand. Stand to be
honored. Stand for us to show
our appreciation. Please,

stand. Come on, stand,
my friend Sal says. So I stand
with other men who stand

in ball caps & button-up jerseys
in the many sections & rows.
Some fans, holding plastic trays of nachos

& cardboard carriers with jumbo Cokes,
move to their seats quickly,
hunching, embarrassed, not wanting

to take credit for serving
from those who did, from those who stand.
Some stand still & just salute

the digitized wind-whipped flag.
Some with hands in their pockets
twist to see others in the park

who also stand. In the service
I always stood when officers
entered a room. In the service I served

more than thirty days in a combat zone
which qualified me to wear
the combat patch.

After the service, they always asked
where’d you serve. The Sandbox?
The Stan? The Storm? In the service

I often serviced my weapon. I served
boiled carrots on Kitchen Patrol
& some mornings I served

by stirring shit to make it
burn better. I served
by closing my eyes

during IED steel & smoke. I served
by running through a marsh
into a home through a doorway

of blue linen hanging
like a piece of laundry—inside
I served by opening each drawer,

each cabinet, looking for wires
& weapons while women screamed in a room
where we’d put them with the children

away from the men
we’d put in another room
to be watched while we searched. I served

by handing out peppermint candies
to children in villages
as fathers & mothers stood in doorways

not speaking, even though if they did
we’d never know what they were saying.
I served standing on dirt streets,

pacing through alleys & avenues
with thumb on the safety
past furious dogs & children

who’d wave or run
even as I, sometimes, just stood
doing nothing but waving

with my left hand
in a constant light, that same
sunlight that makes this little

blond-haired girl glow
as she holds a microphone
with two hands at home plate

while the entire stadium now stands
then everyone, suddenly,
goes silent to hear her sing.

In Country is available from booksellers nationwide this week. Buy a copy today from the BOA Bookstore.


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