Her Terms

Sonja didn’t speak
when she saw the uniforms
through the screen door’s tear.

They said her full name.
She slapped the door shut, locked it
and every window

down so tight they left
without putting up a fight;
just shouted his name

until she rapped back
on glass, acknowledged she’d heard.
When they’d gone, she built

a bonfire of all his
military clothes and piled
on every medal

that he’d collected—
he was no short-timer. Burned
the mess, stirring it

until metal pooled.
After, she watched the sprinkler
douse smoldering cloth

with each rotation,
stunned by June’s deadening heat.
This time Ray stayed gone.

Engaged: Mukaradeeb

Wake up, sleepyhead,
said a female voice when she
scrolled through messages

left on his cell phone—
she’d only meant to borrow it
not to pry into

the life he led when
not near her. But once she’d opened
the box there wasn’t

any way she could stop.
A friend? What friend? She’d have to
let him be other

than she’d wanted him
to be or this would end it.
She shut the mobile.

Later, she held it
for him to take, bit her lip:
I choose to trust you.

He knew she shouldn’t
but having it said made him
want to make it true.

So he would become
the man she’d assumed he was
and she would let go.


When gunshots deadened
hearing at their wedding feast
she flinched, though she

had trained to shoot too.
He covered her veiled ears
with imploring hands.

David Sullivan

DAVID ALLEN SULLIVAN teaches English and Film at Cabrillo Community College in Santa Cruz, California, where he edits the Porter Gulch Literary with his students, and serves on the Veterans Task Force Committee. Two poems from his first book, Strong-Armed Angels, were read on The Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Another two recent poems were selected by Alberto Rios and recorded as part of the permanent public art and poetry project Passage, in Phoenix, Arizona. His second book is from Tebot Bach, and is in multiple voices dealing with the Iraq war. Every Seed of the Pomegranate was a finalist for the May Swenson and Sarabande book prizes. He lives with the historian Cherie Barkey and their children, Jules and Amina Barivan.

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