Patrick Kelly


	The guy next to me on his foot locker,
	shining his boots with a greasy rag,
	making the constant swirling motion
	needed to get the proper shine,
	had a broken lip and swollen face.
	When it was safe to talk
	I asked him what happened.

	Without looking up from his duty,
	in a gentle southern accent he said casually,

	MPs fucked me up because I escaped.
	Made it back to Florida for a whole week.
	Watched TV, got drunk, went fishing, everything.

	My brother has a sticker on his car.
	He was in the Army. One night he drove on base
	and picked me up out near the swamps.

	I was gone for three days before they called my house.
	My mother answered the phone and they asked if she had
	seen me. She said, Sure, he's right here.
	Half an hour later they had me handcuffed
	in the back of a car. They dragged me back here
	and beat the shit out of me.

	I laughed and said, "Your own mother turned you in?"	
	He looked at me with his battered face.
	With the boot still in his hand,
	smashed me in the side of the head with it,
	knocked me off the foot locker.

	I didn't tell her I escaped, he screamed.

	I told her I got a fucking discharge.
	She didn't fucking turn me in, asshole.
	She didn't fucking know.

	He threw the boot at me as I stood up.

	"Sorry," I mumbled,
	and with everyone looking on,
	threw the boot back at him,
	sat down again
	and we both resumed polishing in silence,
	making smaller circles,
	always smaller circles.