Alan Catlin

Thank You for Your Service

This is where they throw them:
the parish house lawns, hospital
sidewalks, homeless shelter steps;
all the winos and the freaks,
petty thieves and pass out artists,
the two bit losers with no place to go.
On slow nights, they drive out to a place
beyond the pines. just this side of the county
line, remove their shoes, and tell them
to walk home in all kinds of weather,
Say, “Don’t even think about knocking
on someone’s door for directions or
a ride because we will find out.”
It’s what they do on the Force,
have done for years, generations,
“My Daddy did it and now, so do I.”
one patrolman says. Later, at the trial,
after one of “the rides” turns up dead,
bruised, battered, way underdressed
for the season, frozen, the prosecutor asks,
“What did you think when you saw
he had a t-shirt that said:
‘What have you done for your country?
I took a bullet in the head.’”
“That he stole it.”
“Well, it turns out he didn’t. Earned it
the hard way in Iraq. Had a drawer full
of medals and citations for uncommon
bravery in the face of the enemy.
And a documented medical condition
that said his war wounds contributed
to a situation where his normal behavior
would appear to be mimicking that of
a substance abuser. A report he carried
with him at all times. You might have
noticed that if you checked what was in
his pockets.”
It was all there in black and white
like the patrol car they drove him to
his death in.


Alan Catlin is a veteran of the poetry wars. His book, Blue Velvet won the 2017 Chapbook Award for 2017. A full-length book Wild Beauty is about to be published by Future Cycle Press. He is the poetry editor of