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Brett Slezak



Reflections and silhouettes rush past pulling at my hair,
      eyes forward, the bus is gone, the street is clear,
my eyes lock with his from across the street — Tom!
I thought you were gone! To Indianapolis! To Iraq!
To sort mail! To kill! Oh, you leave soon? Send
me your address and I will send you liquor and letters!
Stay safe, the best of luck, I mean that! You will be back in
Iowa before you know it!

Brown eyes and a constant smile
that crept from the corners of his mouth

We took pictures with the pretty waitress from
            drunken smiles
                                    your hand
                                    her waist

We sat at the bar and told people you were going to
Iraq and they bought you drinks, you asked them
who they were voting for, I saw your numb face drop
when they said Bush, hey, that’s alright, you said,
let’s take a shot... To Tom! they said

I pestered you with drunk questions,
are you scared, I asked, and you answered,
yes, and I felt bad for asking, you are a braver
man than I am, I said, you will be fine

I have heard stories, second and third hand accounts,
of how a mother lost her child when a Blackhawk crashed.
Weeks after she heard the news, the mailman delivered
a letter from her dead son.

Yeah, its been awhile since ive lasted checked my email. It was good talking to you for a lil bit when i was in indianapolis. Well, right now im at camp buehring, kuwait. So far this place is not that bad. Cuz we have a pizza hut, subway, burger king and even though the meat taste different it still is pretty good to eat. The showers are small as hell but i manage somehow. but using the porta-johns is NOT cool! Especially if you have to go #2. But after awhile you kinda get used to it but you really dont. The weather situation is a lot different back at home cuz its actually somewhat warm here like during the day its about 50-60 degrees but early morning and late night it gets cold. And ive got to kuwait like 2 days ago and this is my third day and its rained 2 out of the 3 days which i thought the middle east doesnt get any rain but i guess im wrong. And believe me, even though ive only been in kuwait for 3 days, the sand is already pissing me off, cuz its everywhere you go and it gets into everything you own. but this is nothing to what will come of in the near future. Oh yeah, merry christmas cuz we're a day ahead of you guys. and to me it doesnt even feel like christmas cuz im out in the dessert. And the time difference is like 9 hours. Well, thats basically how things are right now in kuwait. I should be in iraq sometime the first or second week of january but things can change. well, thats new with me and once again have a merry chirtmas cuz i sure did not.

When I was young and interested in war
I told my father that America had never
lost a war. We did not win Vietnam,
he said.

In school, we took a trip to Washington D.C.
I was too young to choke up at the sight of
the wall then, but I etched the names my father
had requested into a piece of paper
to give to him when I returned home.

Did Grandpa kill anyone in World War II?
I asked my father. He doesn’t like to talk
about the war, my father said.

Oh how it repeats, it circles and repeats,
but it loses meaning every time.

have you ever looked closely at your pupil
in a mirror? have you watched it swell and
thrive and then shrink and retreat and then
repeat? and the color! my pupil is the blackest
of black, and when i stare into it i see the universe,
only it is the universe before time, before the stars,
and to think it is in my eye and in yours too!

there is something else there, this time not in
the pupil but, instead, the iris. i see ripples, slits of
black, that run away from the pupil the way rays of
sunlight streamed away from the sun in pictures
i drew as a child.

i have a cold, and right now white blood cells are rushing
through my body to fight the cold off, the way fighter jets
cross the earth. do my white blood cells justify these wars?
are there meetings held and strategies discussed in the arteries
of my body? and even though the idea is absurd, what if it
were true?


Brett Slezak is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and an MFA Candidate in Creative Nonfiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago. He is an assistant editor at South Loop Review, and his fiction has appeared in the Blue Mesa Review Online. His journal entries have appeared in the journal that sits on his nightstand.