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A Poem for Veterans' Day

Posted on November 9, 2020 at 9:03 AM by Curt LaFond

Veterans’ Day honors service members, but spouses and families deserve gratitude, too, for they bear their own wicked burdens that "moan hard with teeth." 

An Air Force spouse, poet Kate Gaskin gives us a glimpse of the “open wound” military families experience until their deployed loved ones return safely home. This poem is from the volume Forever War, whose title testifies to the hardship of multiple combat deployments, with no respite in sight as the war nears its twentieth anniversary. 

The poem begins in Omaha’s frigid January. Cold is the absence of kinetic energy. Next comes images of fire and destruction – wicks, heartfelt passion, the burning desert, bombs loaded onto warplanes (what a terrifying responsibility!). It concludes with more fire imagery, the airman following the sun to the Gulf and war’s uncertain outcome. I read that last scene as Gaskin juxtaposing the romantic image every happy couple dreams of – their “walking off into the sunset together” – yet here they are an ocean apart. Whatever the cost of war, this family is already paying some of that price in their separation. They are not “spared.”

This Veterans’ Day, Gaskin’s “Delta, Echo, Alpha, Romeo” will make you appreciate the sacrifices of military spouses and families. 

-  Curt LaFond

Delta, Echo, Alpha, Romeo

by Kate Gaskin

January, Omaha splitting
open like a wound, like a moan
hard with teeth, back when

we spoke on the phone delta, echo
alpha, romeo
all the tiny wicks
of dread curling their small

fires deep into my heart. 
In Al Udeid, you said, the wind
in the sand was not quite

a lament, nor did your plane
mean certain death. Tell me
then, how you loaded

the bombs, how you parted
the air, how the ocean divides 
breath between us. In Doha

you followed the sun
to the Gulf. Not once have I
believed we’ll be spared.

From Forever War by Kate Gaston. © 2020 YesYes Books. Originally published in the journal Blackbird. Reprinted courtesy of the author.



Categories: Character

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