I stand with lean, bearded men, silent men,
cold-eyed, in camo caps. They stare ahead

at nothing. I read about them in books
about the Civil War, Arkansas troops,

blue-eyed, walking into Union bullets.
They could be brothers. They could be wounded.

The unemployment office carries us
forward, pulled over clean tiles toward

a desk where a tired woman resists 
our tide.

Poets can’t be stoic. Silent people
seldom flower. Alone, we mumble lines

about the pain we did not seek but
finds us anyway. In company we

declare our mental illness like
an asset on a tax form, even if

we’re sane as paper. Even if we
don’t use paper anymore.

Mark Burgh


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