Facing 2003


by Jeremy Warneke

by Jeremy Warneke

In a black notebook, hardcover

and college-ruled, Adam

Wobegon, an admirer of Yusef

Komunyakaa, writes the following

in black permanent ink:

My white hand fades,

deep inside the pale blue bucket.

I said I wouldn’t

dammit: No washing.

I’m water. I’m flesh.

My clouded reflection eyes me

like a bird of prey…

…I turn

this way—the water lets me go.

I turn that way—I’m inside

the wash bucket basin

again, depending upon the soap

to make a difference.

I go down the piles of clothes,

half-expecting to find

my old uniform encrusted in dirt.

I touch what looks like brown Army briefs;

I see the pink bucket’s splash.

Clothes shimmer on the line outside…

It’s meant as a joke, but

there it is, staring starkly back

at him. The problem,

the dilemma. Always the same.

To wash, or not to wash:

Out of a bucket?

Adam swore that once he left Iraq—

more than ten years ago—

he would say bon voyage

forever to the tiresome task.

Now divorced and on the verge of

being dumped by

his newly pregnant girlfriend,

Adam concludes the poem—

among other things—by writing:

Once you go Iraq, you don’t

go back.


Jeremy Warneke is a public servant in the Bronx, New York. He enlisted in the Army National Guard prior to 9/11. In 2016, with the support of the Bronx Council on the Arts, the New York Public Library, Voices From War…and his family, he created his own writing workshop, “The Craft of War Writing,” which provides free, high-level reading and writing instruction for veterans, as well as the general public, based upon the themes of conflict and war.

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