Green Soldier

First the green soldier,
cast in a seamless plastic mould with a flat oval base,

on his side
as if the wind had blunted his rifle and the rifle,
off balance, tipped him over

his head
hitting the 1x2
anchoring our War Is Not the Answer

A knocked-out green toy soldier
nestled in the vinca

I was weeding.

Vinca in a hardscrabble yard
corrupted by cutthroat weeds.
How it rained!
The soldier, stuck to the ground,
didn’t mottle or mildew.
A plastic
too soft to chip, too hard to bend,
a monochrome
tossed over the fence
into camouflage.

A three-inch-high combatant
wages a mighty
war in a 4-year-old boy’s playtime.
My man! Mine! No mine!
Captured and tipped on his side and kicked
across the room or flung—
a hero’s tickertape return.

If not for their flat oval bases
the green plastic soldiers would pile up
neatly: as it is,
despite pedestals
they topple.

At one time pinpoint eyes
hazel and lashed,
round cheeks you could die for,
shocks of brown hair
sneaking out his chin-strap helmet,
and red parted lips,
now he’s a worn-out green,
pocked all over.

Someone (a woman, a mother)
six days a week in a factory in Queens
with a three-hair brush
paints the tiny cheek,
the red and white stripes on his backpack,
the blue hole in the rifle shaft,
the black double-knotted bootlace bow,
and the silver Kodak point-and-shoot
that replenishes all he sees.
She strokes a dash
for the good-luck rabbit ear
her son keeps stashed in his pocket

little boy
that he still is.

How a knocked-out green soldier,
armed, landed
in the vinca I was weeding—

A teenage boy
saw War Is Not the Answer,
went home,
chose the most ragged, weathered,
used-up soldier from his vast
or meager collection
(the one he could and couldn’t spare),
and like the argumentative ventriloquist
threw his voice over the fence

or a child walking to school
saw the sign
and stole her older brother’s least
favorite infantryman

or a grandparent saw
and secretly removed a soldier a week,
thereby depleting troop strength

or an uncle
rummaged the attic for his
bootcamp sergeant

or a pair of cousins
missed strumming their banjos
with Bill.