The Fifth Reason to Let My Friends Live

“Give me five good reasons,” said my father.

“Give me five good reasons to negotiate.”

I said: “Nicholas and Thomas,

Mickey and Morgan and Andres.”


The fifth good reason to leave Iran alone

Is twenty-three years old.

His favorite joke is:

“I make excellent Chile,

But I was born in Argentina.”

Andres was always lifting a cloud of steam

Heavy with the scent of simmering beef

And twelve wicker baskets left over

He is generous, he loves to sing

And his fingers dance like spider legs

Over the steel chords of a thrift-shop guitar

He used to work 20 hours a day

Tweaking engine designs, modeling propulsion

Awake until the alarm went off for PT

Throw on his uniform, lace up his boots

To defend the airways of his adopted home


The fourth good reason to leave Iran alone

Is twenty-one years old

Already an officer, and no one is surprised.

Class president, directed every fundraiser,

Found money for pregnant mothers,

For starving seniors, for school lunches,

No one could say “No” to Morgan.

Morgan was always on her knees

For hours of unbroken stillness

While shadows drifted and faded out.

I wonder if she prayed so much

Because she was afraid to die

But situations forced her to be brave

Morgan saved me from a stalker

Still wearing her combat fatigues

Ever since, I have imagined

My guardian angel in camouflage.


The third good reason to leave Iran alone

Is twenty-two years old

Waiting six months for a radio signal

To ping from the depths of Neptune’s grave

And summons him to a cloister.

Mickey says NAVY is an acronym:

Never Again Volunteer Yourself.

He ignored his own advice.

Condemning himself for five-to-life

On a silent submarine deployment

Mickey was always tragically awkward

Swaying to an old jazz record

In his brother’s jacket and his church shoes

While the girl in his arms laughed

At the man she is about to marry.

But there was no awkwardness in his swing

When he clocked a man across the face

Who dared to put his hands on me,

A kid he scarcely knew.


The second good reason to leave Iran alone

Is twenty-three years old

And a royal jackass when he isn’t saving my life

By raiding my apartment at two in the morning

And confiscating my razors, my scissors--

--Anything which could have created my scars.

Or calling at five in the morning, Pentagon time

To ask his kiddo if I’m still throwing up Gatorade.

Thomas is always bickering with me

Like the salty old Irishman he’s fast becoming

Who smokes a pipe and takes a drink

No matter what I say about “lung cancer”.

He springs out of nowhere, like Gran’s daoine sidhe

Whenever I get myself in trouble

The car crash, the breakup, the first deployment--

He’ll drive nine hours to check on me

But soon, he won’t be able to

His ship deploys at Christmas.


The first good reason to leave Iran alone

Is nineteen years old

But was destined for deployment in 1916

When his great-great-grandfather

Began an unbroken chain of military service

From Flanders to Saigon to Baghdad, to


Security clearance is required to know,

Which his mother and I do not have.

Nicholas was always wearing the damn sweatshirt

Whose rip expands every time I pull the zipper,

Which is men’s extra large on a woman, extra small

But I’ve worn it to bed, to work, to the grocery store

For these forty days and forty nights

That I wait between phone calls.

Nicholas promised me a hundred thousand times

That this deployment would be over before I knew it.

My boyfriend is a hellbent liar.

He ought to remember the sound of a ticking clock

Driving him insane, pushing him to panic

While his dad was on a ship for 20 years.


This poem is about: 
My community


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