Two Poems

Sitting Baby—a conversation

Assoc. Press photograph,
Sidon hospital, Lebanon, 2006

Oh look look,
              a new doll

see how wide-eyed,

              and his hair

in little damp curls!

              he sits up so straight

and only wearing a diaper

              but look at the accessories!

two gauze bandages, with tape

               placed on wounds

oh, and a darling little IV bag

               with a tube that slides

under one of the arm bandages

                the one a splint

to keep his hand flat, and the second

                wrapping the arm and the other fist

all over like a boxer's

                and that hand's holding a pacifier

just pulled from his adorable mouth, open a little

                with full pink lips, ooo!

there's a leg bandage too, all the way

                from his thigh to his ankle

and see, on those chubby squeezable feet,

                the soles must be ticklish,

and up the other leg

                those clever purple spots, bruises

and little pockmarks

                how surprised he looks

           oh, he's so cute
           let's get one!

Mother, Father, Aunt, Grandmother
not included
not even a Virgin Mother's lap to hold him

Last Parcel from the Family Readiness Group*

August, everything's tired, the grass, the trees,
us, even the children doing a craft project
while we work. And it's raining. Grey 
inside and out.

We have everything spread around us
on the concrete floor of the drill hall
—a high echoing room with steel girders,
concrete block walls and huge raised doors
so the training trucks can be driven in.

We're mailing the final packages
to the local battalion even though
the men won't return till December.
Any later and the parcels will miss them.

It's the usual—candy, gum, lip balm, skin cream,
shampoo, conditioner, handi-wipes—trying
to use up everything we've been given.
I'm so used to it now that the packing instructions
don't even repeat in my head and it goes fast
even though only a few of us are here.

For this last parcel the special treat 
is letters and drawings from local third graders.
We love you  they write  Thank you for saving us
Come home very soon
and draw pictures, of themselves,
of birds and flowers and spiky suns.

They also write  Shoot the bad guys
Don't step on a mine
I want to shoot bad guys too  with drawings of stick figures
shooting or falling and  Pow   Bam  ack ack ack
scattered in the air.

We don't send those,
the war hasn't come home.

*National Guard support group for families of deployed soldiers

—Antonia Matthew, Bloomington, IN