He loves going down to Norfolk’s docks
when a ship comes back from deployment,
all those sailors ringing the top deck at parade rest,
the white of their uniforms as pure as uncut heroin.
He’s never been aboard a boat bigger than the ferry
that shuttles him daily across the James
but can’t imagine life on floating cities
too different from the one he spent
inside an Abrams tank, buttoned up and
viewing the world from video monitors
one slice at a time. He knows he was once sick
with fear of everything outside that armored skin
that wanted in, but thinking back, all he recalls
is the cramped ballet, the rumbling pirouettes,
finding his line to target, the pas de chat of loader
passing sabot round from rack to hand to tube.
When final formation breaks and sailors rush
into arms of girlfriends holding banners
and balloons, he files the postcard moment
in his memory and says aloud, as if the breeze
might carry the warning from his position
so far away into the ears of hugging couples,
Hold on to everything you’ve got. Never let it go.