Outside Looking In

I visited Walter Reed once, with

My then not-yet ex-wife, to

Visit a distant cousin of hers

Who had lost both his legs in

Afghanistan. I stood in his room with

Strangers I knew nothing of and

Who had no clue I’d served time

Too and listened to them lament.


And the kid, 19 I believe, was met

By a squad-mate who’d been hit

In the blast also, losing hearing

In one ear and taking shrapnel to

The face and arm. They began to

Catch up – talking of that day that

Was only a few weeks go through

A percocet and fentanyl haze.


Spitting lingo none of the family

In the room understood but I did;

Being very soldierly (Marines they were)

Joking the pain away with “Dude I

Think some of your leg blew into my

Mouth” and other gruesome things

That we all had joked about at one time.


And I felt a sense of pride and connection

With these kids, as if I were part of their

Conversation, understanding every bit

And piece, every acronym. And for a while

I was back in the billets, or on the trucks

And waxing quixotic with the men after

The days big events, nursing light wounds.


And in my mind I was talking right with them;

Listening to their tale, agreeing right along

With them – “Yeah crush-plate is the worst” or

“Fucking bombs made out of wood – mine sweeper

Don’t quite catch that.” And as I looked around

I realized, I was invisible – invisible to everyone.


I was on the outside looking in – and they

Didn’t see me nor would they ever. Because to

Them if they even knew I was present then,

I wasn’t one of them so how would I understand?

In a way I was these young men laid up in

Some hospital room shooting the shit –

Remembering what it was like, and how bad it was –

And yet I was absolutely nothing like

Them at all. I was just invisible – an outsider.

About anotherwarriorpoet

Mathew Bocian served as a Captain in the United States Army with the Stryker Brigade and was deployed to Mosul and Tal'Afar in 2004 - 2005, and to Baghdad for The Surge in 2007 - 2008. He left the Army in 2012 and now uses his poetry as a way to heal from the traumas of war, while attempting to express to readers the realities of war. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and holds a master's from the Graduate School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
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1 Response to Outside Looking In

  1. robakers says:

    I think we all have been there and will be that guy again. I prefer to think of it as letting them have their fun as opposed to me being the guy that doesn’t understand. Gives me some power over the situation. Whatever it takes to make me sleep at night, I guess.


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