[ What it means to bring a war back home is the subject of Seema
Reza’s searing poem about our soldiers. ] [https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE CULTURE 

 QUARTERING   [https://portside.org/2018-06-22/quartering] 

 

 Seema Reza 
 April 4, 2018
The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database
[http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/quartering] 

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 _ What it means to bring a war back home is the subject of Seema
Reza’s searing poem about our soldiers. _ 

 , 

 

Quartering 

By Seema Reza

 

_The Third Amendment of the United States Constitution: No soldier
shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent
of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by
law._

 

When the soldier knocks on your door, billet book in hand, 

move aside to let him enter. He will wipe his feet, remove his hat 

          (you’ll learn to call it a cover) 

          he will be polite, place his rifle by the door

                                   


Treat him with reverence, keep your fear hidden from view. 

When the question of whether he’s killed bubbles up in your throat, 

          thank him instead        for his service, 

          say you _can’t imagine the sacrifice_

 

When little streams of sand pour out of his pockets 

and form mountains on your floor, be gracious—

          look away while he sweeps the grains 

          back into the creases they emerged from

 

Make small talk with the soldier you are quartering, 

invite him to eat with the family, make space for him 

in front of the television, catch him up on celebrity gossip 

he missed at war 

 

Offer to make up the couch, though it is likely he will decline 

and unroll his sleeping bag; he’s grown unused to comfort  

He will have identified weaknesses 

          in your floor plan         

          and adjusted for them  

Insist on providing a pillow     to ease your conscience  

 

If you come out for a glass of water in the middle of the night, 

see the orange pill bottles lined up on the granite counter 

He may tell you what they’re for or you can guess

 

when your children complain at breakfast 

about their sleep interrupted by his night terrors 

          shush them      

Order a noise machine to obstruct his screams

          Tell them _this is only temporary _

 

When he steps out to smoke a cigarette in the dark try not to see 

the glowing deposits of depleted uranium beneath his skin 

            turning his body into a constellation of
half-lives

 

Soon you will call a warning before you switch on 

the garbage disposal and coffee grinder, 

apologize when the door slams 

reassure him when the neighbor’s car backfires 

          never leave the door unlocked 

 

He will begin to tell you stories in which violence is the setting, 

not the point, a piece of the landscape of the places he has visited 

Then he’ll tell you what he knows about death 

          Do not flinch 

          If he cries, nod.

 

You notice yourself worrying when America bobs in place    

watching the world, ready to pounce like a double-dutch champion

          The word_ troops_ means something different 

          when you’re quartering a soldier 

 

You may notice him making plans, initiating conversation 

sitting down more often to beat the kids 

at video games 

His laughter less a cough, his anger more a flash 

of lightning than a storm

 

You will wish to share his burden, sleep without the sound barrier 

hear his cries in the night 

For all his straight-backed composure 

                        he is no
machine                      

Lie awake and wonder if this is worth the tax incentives

 

You’re in too deep now, but remember your words—

_this is only temporary—_

orders will arrive and his bag—never fully unpacked—

will be shut tight, his boots laced, his dusty rifle cleaned

 

Feel the tension in his parting embrace 

the recoil as he adjusts his cover 

and looks away from your tears           Realize 

your every act of kindness has been an act of war.

 

“Quartering” was originally published in the Bellevue Literary
Review. 

 

SEEMA REZA is the author of the memoir _When the World Breaks
Open_ (Red Hen Press
[https://redhen.org/book/?uuid=4B1BCE6F-546F-7237-52C4-81E108503BD1],
2016) and a forthcoming collection of poetry (Write Bloody, 2019). An
alumnus of Goddard College and VONA and a two-time Pushcart Prize
nominee, her writing has appeared in print and on-line in _The LA
Review, The Feminist Wire, Bellevue Literary Review, The Offing,
Hematopoiesis, Entropy, _and _Anomaly_, among others. She is the
Chair of Community Building Art Works, an organization committed to
building veteran and civilian dialog through a unique military
hospital arts program that encourages the use of the arts as a tool
for narration, self-care, and socialization.

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