What must you have thought
when they summoned you
to the sergeant’s office?
When they told you not

unsympathetically
that not only had your mother died
but that she was the one
who had taken her own life.

What must you have thought
when they told you that she
had left no note or explanation,
but that you were of course,

entitled to a leave of absence,
the irony! No, you argue, no,
that could not be she, your mother,
our mother, she was not the kind to…

The officers offered their condolences
and said you could go back
to Oklahoma that very day.
Why, you asked, would you want

to go to Oklahoma, a place
you’d never been. To make the arrangements.
To bury your mother.
‘My mother’s not in Oklahoma.

My mother’s never
been to Oklahoma nor has my mother
ever had the inclination
to go to Oklahoma,’ you might have said.

What must you have thought
when they stuttered strange replies
and shuffled papers on the desk and
asked you again your name?

Already three years in the Marines,
what must you have thought brother?
Afeeling of loss without loss.
An endless expanse of water

and a horizon with nothing on it
but its own perpetual extension?
Like love, maybe, or one version of it.
Something which reminds me of the time

a lover told me once I was not
the person she thought I was.
What must you have thought?
Perhaps of the other private,

the one with your name, you his,
how he would now be summoned
to be told what you had been told
to deny like you had denied,

to shake his head at a world
full of mistaken identities,
summonings, revelations,
recantations and invitations

to Oklahoma, Oklahoma,
for a leave of absence,
a leave of absence,
taken, not taken