Matt Borczon

The secret lives of ghosts

in the

years since

the war

I have


a lot

about the

secret lives

of ghosts

I can


their voices

from rain

or the

tires squeals

that cover

their words


and I

can tell

who they

are by

where I

find them

in my


the children

are in

my daughter’s

room and

the detainees

and local

nationals are

always in

the kitchen

the ghost


and Marines

are everywhere

and will

go anywhere

as long

I don’t ask

them to



I have

learned to

see past

their dead

eyes their

wounds and

stumps their

pain and fear


can’t make

them leave

they only

get thin

and quiet

enough to

make me

question if

they are

real and

this scares

me more

than they do


my therapist

says I

can make

them leave

any time

I want

since I

made them

only I

didn’t make them

the war

made them

the sand

made them

the fighting

bullet holes

and bombs

made them

the helicopters

and stretchers

bloody equipment

sleepless nights

body bags

and missed

calls home

made them

the constant

fear you

can’t do

enough to

save any

of them

made them


the same

way it

made me


whole nights sleep

After 3 nights

of my anxiety


a sharp

bare tree

inside my


I finally slept

one whole

night without



but when I

woke up today

my voice was hoarse

my throat dry

as dust

or sand  and

my arm was bruised

from elbow

to wrist


after another night

back in the war.


Getting your hands dirty

a young nurse

took a long

long time

picking out

a towel to

wrap the

child’s corpse

and when we

got to the

isolation room

I could see

she didn’t want

to touch it


so I wrapped

the body and

gave it to

the parents

I changed

the sheet and

disinfected the

mattress all

the while I

was thinking

about a fall

day when I

found a cat

dead against

my fence

it had been

there a long

time and I

had to peel it

away from the

metal before

I could stuff

it into a

trash bag .


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