by Jehanne Dubrow

My husband loves to stand before a giant flag
that isn’t there and quote the General
to his troops, which is to say to me,
that I’m the troops need rallying
before the beach is stormed, or in our case,
before the combat of routine marriage.
All Americans love to fight, he says.
The sting of battle is the sting of coming home.
Husband-and-wife is killing business.
We must love one another by the bushel-
fucking-basket. He says, an army is a team.
You’re not all going to die, he says,
although the bed may seem a rendezvous
with the enemy. But that’s the goddamned thing.
Only sons of bitches give in to cowardice,
purple-pissing their separate lives
while heroes fling themselves against a coast.
This we’ll defend. Every bastard is afraid
of waking beside the same body everyday,
the way she lays there like a corpse,
and you think to yourself, how long must I lie
in this shell hole, the hell with that.
But then, she moves, and you wipe the dirt
from your face and you realize this is the victory.
To wait it out. Only a sock full of shit
decides to run. Rip open the belly of wedlock.
Make the screaming your best friend,
make a constant advance on the line, make
it blood and gut, a thousand consecutive hours
of lousy commitment. Breed bravery
in yourself until the bullet in your lungs
becomes a triumph, and thirty years from now
you’ll tell your grandson this wheeze
and cough is how to recognize a man.
All right, you wonderful guys, go grease
the treads of your tanks, he says. That is all.

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Jehanne Dubrow is the author of five poetry collections, including most recently The Arranged Marriage, Red Army Red, and Stateside. Her work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, The New England Review, The Southwest Review, and The New York Times Magazine. She is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of North Texas. "Patton" and "Tackle Box" come from her sixth book, Dots & Dashes, which won the Crab Orchard Review Series in Poetry Open Competition Award and will be published in 2017.