The Adirondack Review
Medically Discharged
Cape May, New Jersey, 2001


Some company commander

drops the broom into your hands,

barks, stares, and leaves. You are not worth

the backward glance. You are being discharged.

To earn your keep, you clean. You say:

Sir yessir, ma'am yes'm.

You say these things

loudly.  You do not exert yourself. You have two

to think about now.

And you keep your head down, because there are ways,

ways to slip in the communal shower, the back of the head

smashing to tile while a dozen women look on,

ways to fall rigidly from the top bunk at night,

ways to choke in a crowded chow hall.

There are ways to avoid being

the only one of these two that survives. You know

who it is that will. You know that home

is not where your mother is.  Home is a cold white

tiled floor, a bedroom divided, an Other

who reads Playboy, ignores you, doesn't want

the second person.

Some company commander stops you

in the dirty hallway, half-swept, and asks:

What are you naming it? What if it's a Girl? Boy?

And you keep your head down, because there won't be any names,

no small soft clothing, no proud papa, and you say:

Sir I don't know sir. Sir it's too early to tell sir.

Dismissed, you go on stabbing each corner with the broom,

shoving the hairs and fingernails and old food and rocks

into the wall, shoving it back up inside you,

the way your mother, seven hours behind,

is shoving chipped dishes

into the dishwasher, hurting her hands, forcing

stained porcelain into the racks.

Michele Harmeling







The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
MICHELE N HARMELING currently attends Eastern Washington University as a student in the MFA Creative Writing Program, where she also works half-time as the web designer for the Eastern Washington University Press.  In her spare time, she can be found at local coffee shops writing, or training with
the Spokane Boxing Club. Some of her work is forthcoming in the Alaska Quarterly Review.