Poetry Sunday: “Driving,” by Jenny Linn Loveland


for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan

whenever I see a yard
not fenced in, freshly trimmed, I notice the fire-red
hydrant, talons out stretched   all directions

flashing flags

whenever I hear sprinklers
tick and pulse, the stop-start whir of scythes
bicycling against tall grass   mowed

that thrum

I taste lush green shadows the hoses
left, breathe the newly sliced grass, filaments
rising, the dandelion manes shorn, and the summer’s flotsam
malingering behind the wheel

I succumb

to scalding air-soaked deserts, molten
carpets of tar and dark odors where F-16’s
metal blades blasting night, shift orange
flicking Bedouin shadows,

all mirage

whenever I see a yard unfenced,
I clench, keep to the wheel and drive
through worry, past
the tread marks, past
grit and sweat, past
the neighbors sipping beer.


First published in The Art of War, the War on the Rocks’ online defense journal, December 18, 2015, then in A Common Bond: A Veterans Chapbook, 2016, which also features Loveland’s art and can be ordered here.

Listen to the poet reading her poem here.

Jenny Linn Loveland’s ​poetry​ appears in various publications including O-Dark-Thirty and War on The Rocks. ​​“Without Regret,” one poem in a collection of veteran works, was nominated for The Pushcart Award (2017). ​ In 2015, she belonged to a writers group awarded a grant from The Visual Art Center in Richmond, Virginia to attend the 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival. Born in Tokyo, Japan, and raised in an Air Force family, Loveland grew up in Fairfield near Travis Air Force Base. Commissioned at UC-Berkeley (1975), she was among the first women allowed to enter ROTC, and she is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel and a Gulf War Veteran. Having raised two children, she lives in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she teaches, paints, ​ writes, and conducts writing seminars for veterans affiliated with The Armed Services Arts Partnership and Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Medical Center. She belongs to The Poetry Society of Virginia, The Hampton Roads Veterans Writers Group, and writers’ groups in Richmond. She is working on a collection of poems and short stories about family, service, recovery, and joy.


Poet’s Note

“Driving” was stirring inside me for a long time, but I couldn’t put it down on paper until I attended a veterans writers’ group​ at the College of William & Mary. Emily Pease was the guest instructor and she introduced the prompt “whenever I … ” which triggered the opening line. It was so rich, and I went with the first image that came to mind, driving past a green lawn. Many of the original images tumbled onto the page. Afterwards, the poem continued to build on itself over time, went deeper. During this time, I had occasions​ to meet other veterans from the Gulf War and Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns at various readings and ​writers’ groups. Each conversation led me deeper into the theme. The poem explores memory, time, and psychological displacement within the context of deployment and ​war. I am also reminded of the many unanticipated traumas people experience day in and day out.


Images of Loveland’s art are included here, “The Patrol,” “I Know Why,” “9/11 Liberty Stands,” and “Elegy at Hollywood Cemetery.”




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  • bev November 19, 2017 at 7:32 am

    A beautiful poem that lets us who have never been to war, see what that does to people who have…it also lets us see how it is for other people with PTSD… the mind never rests, it is always vigilant because it needed to be but once the danger is over, this vigilance is no longer appropriate and victims don’t know how or are just too scarred to ever feel safe without it. Yes – the bright red hydrant is always there for some. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Izzie November 12, 2017 at 7:35 am

    Liked this poem a lot.


    • bev November 19, 2017 at 7:33 am

      Yes Izzy, it was so appropriate for Remembrance Day. It was powerful.