Poem of the Week | July 07, 2014

This week we’re delighted to feature a poem by Laurie Rachkus Uttich. Uttich’s essays and fiction have been published or are forthcoming in Fourth Genre; Creative Nonfiction; River Teeth; Poets and Writers; Iron Horse; Brain, Child; Writer’s Chronicle; and others. She teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida. This is her first published poem.
Author’s Note:

I was a child when my cousins came home from Vietnam. I remember the women sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea, and whispering about the changes in their boys who became men overseas. Even now, it’s not uncommon to hear my mother say, “He was never the same after the war.” Still, we remain a family that actively serves. My father was in Korea and two of my cousins are serving now. We honor their service, and we ache with love and worry for them and their families.
And yet, I was surprised when a friend recently asked my 17-year-old son what he planned to do after graduation and he mentioned joining the military. The words in this poem are his own. I was silent during that conversation, but here I try to capture my fears… and, perhaps, to understand the appeal to him. When I researched the origins of “maybe” and found that it was a Middle English modifier that orginated sometime during the 14th and 15th centuries, I thought of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. I imagined generations of mothers giving birth to boys during this time period; helpless, but wrought with worry over what “may be.”


It May Be


You say military like you know what
it means, the word meaty in your mouth.
Mil slides soft into il, like milk. Not mom,
which begins and ends too soon. Besides,
the vowel’s all wrong. Itary marches
in, salutes and stands at your command. But,
then there’s maybe, another m, a long
a cut short–but it’s late and doesn’t pass
inspection in its wrinkled shirt and scuffed-
up shoes. And who can blame this Middle
English modifier–it may be–that showered,
shaved and showed up first, perhaps, for
France during that war that lasted just a
hundred years? It might be good, you say.
One last m, a rhyme with fight. And then,
a hard, two-punch g. Like gun. Like gone.