Basic Training
by P. J. Williams

Mother worries about the ringworm in the sandbox.
She watches out for her boy, afraid
of what she might find when he finds his way
home, of what might be missing. He is two

and he is twenty: in the sandbox with a water gun,
with the safety off and stuck there. He’s got girls
with cooties lobbing pine cones, chunks of humvee
scattering like the snaps of snare drums
from the lead vehicle of his convoy.

The beetles and the IEDs—they seem harmless but
mother worries. There has been no Government Issue visit
yet, no grief-conditioned chaplain planted
to her porch like a headstone, so she keeps wiping sand

away, looking him over for the worm’s little circles.
She tells him she doesn’t want the circles on him—
that there are enough bull's eyes out there in the sandbox.

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