Skip to main content

poetry Alternate History

Poet Bill Glose, a former paratrooper and author of three collections of poetry, addresses the psychology and luck that brought him back from Iraq.

printer friendly  

Alternate History

By Bill Glose

When we rolled into Iraq,
newspapers predicted more
than half of us would die.

Eyes masked by tinted goggles,
we assumed stoic expressions
or else joked and slugged shoulders

embroidered with AIRBORNE tabs,
that narrow strip proclaiming
our shared religion. I remember

certitude settling into my bones
that I would not come back whole,
accepting that sour fact the same way

a losing wrestler shakes
his opponent’s hand before
the ref raises it in victory.

Looking back on my younger self,
so full of bravado
and jingoistic pride, I ponder

the multiverse theory of existence.
On another plane, perhaps the predictions
were correct, my corpse rolled

into an unmarked grave then covered
by a dune’s shifting sand. Then, too,
there would be another world

with another version of myself that
never went to war, never bargained
with God to swing his hammer

on someone else, never unleashed
the black dog within his heart
and set its gnashing teeth to work.

Bill Glose is a former paratrooper and author of three poetry collections, including Half a Man, whose poems arise from his experiences as a combat platoon leader. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including The Missouri Review, Narrative Magazine, Poet Lore, and Atlanta Review. In 2011, he was named the Daily Press Poet Laureate. Other honors include the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Award and the Missouri Humanities Council Award for Veteran's Poetry. More information is available on his website: