The child is eating something
found in the gutter, urgency in the act.
The young soldier, watching, is sure
the child hasn’t eaten for days.
Instead of averting his gaze
he crouches, paws through his pack
for energy bars his mother sent days
back. He offers them to the child
who at first withdraws, searching
the soldier’s tired eyes, then
the extended hand. There is no hesitation
when the child opens a wrapper, takes a bite,
chews, then takes another, swallows and
says, Thank you, in a language
the soldier hasn’t learned to speak
but spoken in one both understand.
I don’t like this war, the soldier says.
I’m sorry this is happening. I want
to go home - and you no longer have one.
Neither speaks to the other
until the platoon moves forward again.
The soldier picks up his pack. Good luck,
he says, I hope we both get out of this
alive. He tousles the child’s hair,
then leaves without looking back.