The hotel’s abandoned, shut down. He locks
the door to the lounge. Listening to storm
reports, he washes cocktail glasses
behind the bar. Each one he’s dried,
he places on a plastic shelf that runs
across a mirror he’s never looked in,
scared of the dead man he’d see at fifty-
three, afraid to count the days until,
one by one, they’re gone again. Restless,
he’s waiting for a call but won’t pick up
the phone, numbering each time it rings
as just one more he has to hear before
it’s really over, his heart unable to bear
another loss. The brutal winds shake

the building, bouncing the bar’s tables
and chairs around as if an earthquake,
not a hurricane were breaking the island
apart. He tastes ash on his tongue and swills
some Cuban rum he keeps stashed beneath
the cash register. A hundred burning huts
make their own storm he’d learned as his best
friend ran amuck after their platoon had lit
them all, screaming he deserved a god damn
medal some lieutenant had deprived him of,
then shooting chickens, pigs, gooks before
he blasted his head off his neck with a grenade
that killed them all. Only Marcus had survived,
brought back from the dead in a field hospital,

still gripping his best friend’s dog tags.
He wears them around his neck like an amulet.
After he’s rinsed another glass in the soapless
water, he wipes it with a fresh towel
and inspects it for spots by the absinthe green
light that fills the room as the dying winds
chill the air. The chain around his neck
feels tighter than it’s ever felt before,
Danny’s tags weighing on his chest heavy
as a shield. As he falls, he can’t pull
them off. Is his zippo out of fluid? Danny
hands him his. For once a hut burns fast
enough, as the enemy flees from the flames
in his brain while their animals bellow and squawk.

number 22 in the 2River Chapbook Series