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"... brevity is the soul of wit ..."
- William Shakespeare

Michael Steffen

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Photo of GIs Playing Poker at a VFW Post

Briefly, the camera halts their game—
in an upturned fan of cards, the king of hearts
pushing a blade through his crowned head.
Why does he do this—kill himself
again and again, his benevolent gaze
fading into the jungle green
between the peanuts and stale beer?
The four old grunts at the table know,
but they're not talking—I get the impression
they never spoke of what they survived
in the rice paddies and high hills of their own
dire and baffling summers—four faces slightly
out of focus, blank as an empty noose,
chips piled up like corpses.