PTSD By Jordan Hamilton


For Keith and Ben

It’s a scene
People in my line of work
Are all too familiar with
Two in the morning
Cigarette in hand
On his knuckles
He’s been swinging at shadows again
Whiskey on his breath
I am talking him down again
I’m trying to remind him
That Afghanistan is just an outline on a map now
That he is in Southern California
And no longer in the desert that killed half of his adopted brothers
I try to swallow my guilt
Even though I have heard all of the stories
And he and I have the exact same basic training
I have no idea what he’s been through
I try to keep it humorous
I remind him that
California has a gang problem
But the bloods and the crips are not known for making homemade explosives
Not known
For treating children like street corners
And rigging them with IEDs
That’s probably not funny to any of you
But that’s okay
Even though he laughs
We both know
It’s empty
Gallows humor
Because there’s nothing funny about a grown man
Scared to death of the monsters under his bed
He takes a drag from his cigarette
Takes a pull from his bottle
Normally I would stop him
But I can tell that tonight
It might be the only thing holding him together
He says
Do you remember the things they taught us
Like how Opha Mae Johnson
Was the first female to join the Marine Corps in 1912
Or how In 1918 we gave birth to the concept of Marine Corps aviation
The proper way to place a tourniquet is as far from the heart
And as close to the missing limb
As possible
If one of your brothers
Takes a round to the chest
The proper way to treat it
Is to take a layer of gauze
Large enough to cover the wound
Tape down three sides and monitor your patient for shock and tension pneumothorax
If they present
With tension pneumothorax
You take the end of a hypodermic needle
Puncture between the second and third rib
Allowing air to escape from the pleural cavity
And your casualties lungs to expand
When one of your brothers
Is thinking about killing himself
He will act irrationally
He will make jokes about his own demise
His performance at work will be affected
And with shaking hands
He will begin to give away
Things that you once thought meant something to him
What they never taught us
Were the things that mattered
They never taught us
How to apply a tourniquet
To the bleeding stump of your own sanity
Or what do
No matter how many sharp objects I have punctured my chest with
My lungs
Just don’t seem capable of expanding anymore
Or what to do
When the shaking hands
Are now my own
The only thing
That puts me to bed anymore is a bottle of whiskey and a fist fight
And that’s because
The last time I slept soundly
It was in a hole I dug with my bare hands
7000 miles from home
The last time
My bed felt comfortable
It was in the middle of a war zone
He takes a drag from his now spent cigarette
Takes a pull from his empty bottle of whiskey
He reaches for his wallet
Shows me a picture of his pregnant wife
He says
Do you know why I’m glad I’m having a baby
I feel like If I can bring a child
Into this world
Then maybe
I can give back a little bit of the innocence that was stolen from me
I was 19 and naive
When they handed me a rifle
And sent me off to war
And I don’t think I’m ever going to get that back
You see
Before I left I knew
No matter what they held I could always outrun my fears
No matter what my night mares contained
I would always wake up
But somewhere
Between the first time
My truck hit an IED
And the night
We had to send Kyle home in a body bag
Because someone fell asleep on post
My nightmares
They grew legs
And started chasing after me
And now
My lungs
Are on the verge of collapse
From running dead sprint
Through a marathon race
I just don’t seem capable of finding the finish line to
I don’t know If I’m ever gonna wake up
And the irony of that
Is I haven’t slept in three days
The images
Just keep playing themselves across my vision
As if the back of my skull
Were a movie projector
I can smell
The blood
And I can taste the death
I keep hearing the sound a throat makes
When all of it’s vocal cords have been cut
I keep seeing the way Jonesy’s face looked
Moments before a bullet
Removed the top half of his skull
And drained
Every dream
He’d ever had
Out onto the dirt street of some shit hole city we couldn’t even tell you the name of
We couldn’t even tell you why we were there
And I know
The burden of doing exactly as we are told
Is one
Us warriors
Are taught to carry at a young age
But my shoulders
Are tired
I keep trying to remind myself that I am a warrior
That I am trained to kill
And willing to die for the things that I believe in
And If I just keep doing exactly as I have been taught
This will all go away
The problem is
That in between my nightmares
My favorites dreams
Are the ones where my friends
Are still alive

By Jordan Hamilton

Jordan Hamilton is a 23 year old poet from Aransas Pass, Texas. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2014, where he learned to stare open eyed into clouds of CS gas while reciting Buddy Wakefield’s “Human the Death Dance.” He thinks punk rock can save the world and find his dreams in the stories of strangers. He wants you to know that your survival is the highest form of courage. His work can be found at or in audio format at

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