What I Want for Joshua 

Bruegel’s The Vice and the Virtues
is cluttered with battle carnage. Even 
the the noble seem sullied & trapped. Eleven 
engravings & in all of them I can’t 
tell the good guys from the bad, 
especially in the one titled Courage,
where warriors chase & impale 
imps & demons rather than human
foes. Showing their mettle 
they march blindly into a creepy
freestanding blob that looks like a living
stomach–no way out. It goes

without saying that when my cousin
Joshua saw combat in Afganistan 
it took courage but it was a blind
hard bravery that smacked
back, a long trail
of wild. He seemed fine. Everyone
so proud & complimentary. Welcome
home.  Thank you
for your service. The track 

lines were there but I didn’t
want to see them & when he began
nodding off at the Home Team Grille
during major league playoffs I figured
he was healing, needed rest, more
time. He slept with a pistol, quit 
teaching Sunday school, lost
30 pounds. It goes 
without saying it took guts for him 

to protect his unit. They 
were more family than family 
& when the IED detonated, 
obliterating two buddies, delimbing
three others, you can understand 
why he felt guilty & why
he thought he needed to double

down & reenlist. The first overdose 
caught us by surprise & naturally 
by the fourth stint in detox we’d gotten 
used to the drill. Learned to hide
the diamonds & opals, family
silver, In Bruegel’s 

etching, in the right hand 
corner, there’s a hint
of possible deliverance where a tall
ship on the horizon glides
away. Bruegel has made the way
difficult to see. One night

during a clean patch Joshua broke
down. Said the worst thing is being
seen as weak & to survive his Army
pals felt unbearable like dozens of rusty
nails puncturing his heart. I have no
idea how to help, no one 
seems to. I think of Bruegel
who saw little hope in this fallen
world & who pointed
to the heavenly for redemption, but even
Bruegel in his world of fiends
& hellions presented one corner
of liberation where a tall
ship slowly sailed unexpectedly off
the canvas and into a new adventure.