road race, Christmas day (for Alex Decoteau)


a photo, 1910.

Edmonton before

the war.

some version

of the same cold


same regiment.

Alex Decoteau’s eyes are closed.

one leg raised in anticipation

of next steps.

his hair is short

and black,

legs are bare.

the number three is on his

chest. faces line

the road.



the night before you left

for Afghanistan it snowed.

some Christmas lights hadn’t

been put away

yet. Christmas trees prone

             in back alleys,

wrapping paper

             in see-thru blue bags,

needles falling into snow.

you scraped the hair

             from under 

your chin, shaved the sides of 

your head, walked 

to the car. 



on Christmas day Alex Decoteau floats

over snow until seven years later

some German farmboy pulls 

the trigger and stops 

all anticipation.

his legs are churned 

into mud. spirit floats

over nameless bodies like

yellow smoke from elm-leaf


Benjamin Hertwig lives on the unceded land of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. His first book of poems, Slow War, is coming out in 2017.