The phone rings and I answer to silence.
Then his voice.
His voice is the same. Too young
to be in charge of so much, and so many
men with hard boots and hard eyes.
How are you? even though
I know what the answer will be.
Fine, I’m fine.
He evades, like I’m asking
a question to which he doesn’t know
of the mission, of his men
and the good food.
How are the kids?
Have you seen them?
The kids, the touchstone,
the constant that can be
talked about, laughed about,
discussed and delighted
in, a story with happy chapters.
Endless details —
who needs clothes or haircut,
how much gas money; the prom
is coming and church camp.
His voice caresses each name
like smooth stones carried
in his heart for luck.
I can’t wait to get home, he says.
When? I ask.
I remember the last deployment
and the return date that shifted
as quickly as the dunes of sand.
Soon, maybe four months. Maybe five. Soon.
It is time to end our call.
My goodbye is cheerful, his the same.
I love you we say at the same time,
I love you.
The line goes quiet. He is gone.
I hold the phone close to my face
a few moments longer then slowly,
I too am gone.