re / integration

A poetry collection by Jenni Kate Baros, December 2019

If YouTube views are any indication, scores of people enjoy watching videos of U.S. soldiers surprising their loved ones with an unannounced homecoming. These viewers think that these surprises, filled with kisses, laughter, and tears, are what love looks like. And at times, it does. However, when the cameras are turned off, military couples enter into the days following deployment, a time the military refers to as “reintegration.” The following poems come from an unpublished collection written by the wife of a combat veteran. These pieces explore what happens after a soldier comes home from war. Giving voice to the silent ranks, “Known”; “Self-Help”; and “Standard Issue” reflect upon the effects of deployment on love, and what it looks like to pull through, together.

Jenni Kate Baros is finishing her graduate thesis at Eastern New Mexico University. Prior to becoming it’s editor, Jenni Kate’s fiction has been published by El Portal, and she received the ENMU Writers’ Retreat Top Honors for Poetry. She lives in Colorado with her husband of 21 years, teenaged children, and two obstinate, silver Labradors.


It is not good for human to be alone.
Little one, little one.
Let me in.

My onion skin burns around seltzer fingertips
 sliding wet, slow, between thighs
               like so much barbed wire
 – aware of eucalyptus gasp and lobo tongue catching on fences,
rattling garden shelves until incense –
               myrrh and coriander,                paprika, anise –
vials topple
Constantinople and my bones
come undone.

I shake violent purple sunrise over Ephesus, beyond the tents of Kedar. This quaking doesn’t stop until                                        this body, like my name,
is ours
            and my own.

It is not good for human
                Ya’da. Ya’da. Ya’da.
to be alone, little one.
Little one let me
in. One life. From


A barracks of plywood and
cardboard-backing hold self-help
regiments, leaning one
against another

Black Hearts
How Emotions Are Made

A battery of nimble-backed
binders hold the line between
plans for when you came back and
how to live while you’re gone.

On Killing
When War Comes Home

A platoon of government
-issue training
manuals stand at the ready
next to rosters of date night starters.

Every Man’s Battle
Moral Choices

A sentinel of ink at attention
– hurry up and wait – on a journal
of beige and brown. The pages
inside are blank.

The Love Dare
Hold Me Tight

A brass top supports
the lamp you’ve had
longer than me,
lighted still,

Do Hard Things
Helping Those Who Hurt

with a bulb that, in
twenty-two years,

Die Empty

we’ve only changed

Standard Issue

an Army-wife
that holds
breath and poster-board
for return. Hot air balloon
packed away
after flight,
all colors and silk whispering
back into a space
no bigger
than a duffle bag.   

Which is to say, I
am Mary-madre
to the false-caterpillar Magdalenes
in Cherry Bark Tortrix lashes 
surreptitiously avoiding eye contact
and a public spectacle because we all know.

Cocktail crepe frail, 
a Dead Leaf with delicate thin legs, dangling over
sensible heels, to shield
against flag wrapped
pine boxes.

Chequered Skipper, lean and coiled piston anticipating a spark,
next to Class A’s
and new medals clink
windchimes. Updating

ribbons, promotion packets before the board

and the scones have to come out of the oven.