In The Boot Camp Laundry Room
we rise, together, one more time
after Sharon Olds
The boy and I face the same wall
streaked with old, white, lead paint.
We hang, suspended from the same rod
meant for drying coats from winter rain.
Y’all two better win The Cup, Sergeant said,
inside her fishbowl office where she
watches the open bay barracks, but y’all
better not get caught in the laundry room
doing pull ups. She speaks with a raised
eyebrow and half-turned head and
even without the Combat Action Ribbon
on her chest, we know from
her ponytail, tight without
a single stray strand, that she is not
to be messed with. Our bleeding
palms grip, aching muscles
strain, our boots mirror black
light in dark shine. With
camo tops off, his t-shirt is
light brown, like mine, except for the stencils—
and there is no way to know how different that makes
our lives. Still, we sneak
snacks to each other
from the chow hall: crackers, jelly packets, peanut butter cups. We creep into the laundry room. We face the wall. We hang, we
grip, we strain, we shine, we rise, together, one more time.
✽ ✽ ✽
Nestor was born in Bangladesh, raised in Greece, and served in the US Navy as a corpsman and SEAL. He now studies math at Stanford University. Find him at nestorwalters.com.