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In The Boot Camp Laundry Room

Nestor Wallers

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—

W–– 0293

P–– 7785

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

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