It was early in the morning when we arrived
Back at Fort Lewis. At some ungodly time
We lined up and I stepped up to the cage and
Handed my life away. Some think I did that
When I enlisted or signed the commission papers.

No. I stepped up and I handed off W382738
Right back to our arms room NCO and then she
Was gone. I had been beside my rifle for the
Long haul – twelve months in the combat zone
And she’d treated me right every step of the way;
Only gave me problems when I fed her bad magazines.

And they sent me back to the real world.
And there was no rifle, and there was no sling;
Without these things I didn’t know what to do
With my hands. In the formation before dismissal
At least I knew protocol dictated I have them
Straight down at my sides. But when First Sergeant
Dismissed us, I walked off tapping unconsciously
At my side where she used to hang, and adjusting
The invisible sling that I had on my left shoulder
That kept her either directly across my chest or at
My right hip. I put my hands in my pockets, pulled
Them out again and crossed them; folder my arms, unnerved.

And it was this way for a long time; nervous energy
Making my hands tick – tapping at various parts of
My body where sensitive items used to be. Above all
Where my carbine had laid and the pressure I had
Gotten used on my body that told me I was in the right,
That I hadn’t forgotten my weapon in training, or got
Schooled by some instructor for falling asleep – The
Sense that told me that if shit went to pot I had at
Least a fighting chance and it was through skill, and her; No.
At night I curled up with a pillow on my side where
W382738 used to be, cradled in my arms regardless if
I was on top of the truck, in my hootch, or on a floor
In some dank building or hole on some OP.

And this nervous tick continued from time to time
Checking to see if my rifle was still there. And in
Time it was replaced by the conscious tapping to ensure
I have my wallet and keys when I walk or pass through
The streets or a crowd – a substitute for making
Damn sure I don’t leave the house unprepared;
Making sure I am not without protection, my carbine,
My life.

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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2 Responses to Hands

  1. This post was so well-written – I feel like I was watching a movie in my head when reading it.


  2. Great post. And I’m glad to know fellow soldiers and instructors try to steal your weapon while you’re sleeping in the Army, too! We used to wrap the sling completely around our legs and fall asleep with our arms wrapped around it, or sometimes partially under us if it wasn’t too dusty or muddy!


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