Before a war we think we know exactly how the war will go. Accountants happily project raised GDP and its effect. Predict each country will adopt a free economy and co-opt democracy who’ll bloom just like a desert rose but that is never how it goes. During war the News Hour lists each soldier whose return is missed and the places they called home, a soldier’s life reduced to loam. No locals named, not friend nor foe who is who? How can we know? The war drags on, a swamp, a mire repeating tours, souls under fire. It’s forgotten once we start wars pay for nothing not a part of their pile of pain and loss yet we ignore the total cost. Lives, limbs and minds are left behind. We're told the same lies every time. The goals and actions are a fake leave ravaged landscape in their wake. Once home, our soldiers dream the war and wonder what it all was for.
A hundred questions cross my mind What was that song dad used to hum? What college did my mom attend? Where did Aunt Marge’s friend come from? I failed to ask or make a note of many things while they were here just within reach alive and near. A hundred questions cross my mind About Dad’s mom who died so young. I’ve no idea what she died from. My favorite stories too are gone The battleship for whom Dad played Hail to the Queen a serenade. Salts stood attention at the rail Dad asked them down to drink and sail. He went onboard to drink instead. These questions come at oddest times Old photos with the names now gone A tune, a food, a place, a song I wonder and will wonder long.
Loving you prepared me for Walmart where greeters are friendly but the merchandise is made by strangers in dark, distant rooms. Losing you prepared me for Reductions in Force Being told “You’ve worked hard. This isn’t personal. It’s about stock price.” Watching you leave broke me like an egg Nothing I knew was true – zip – zero – nada. I must start again from the beginning. Starting over prepared me for God, who waited at the still bottom of a life emptied of passion, distraction and theory.
I thought elephants danced in the car
as my aunt clasped me, age two with pneumonia
and mom drove to hospital – I screamed when they
left so the doctors forbade future visits.
I was alone with nurses and needles
for two long white weeks.
Pat left me tied, age five, to a phone pole.
She didn’t do it. Gerard and his buddies did
but my sister, my protector, walked away
left me bound ‘til dinnertime alone
next to the street, a kindergartener
in suspenders and red Keds.
In 9th grade, Sandi broke up with Tom.
He asked me out – the blond boy of my dreams!
Sandi coached me for a week on
dancing, clothes and French kissing.
Then, outside Grunnings, his friends laughed,
teased me – the date was a joke. Didn’t I get it?
Jamie had a sister – institutionalized.
I had no brother. We were siblings for each other.
I felt safer with him than anyplace I know.
He married young, grandson by 52. A mole grew.
Jamie, who could corral whole rooms with laughter,
called one afternoon to say he did not feel
like he was dying. But he did.
Glenn “with two n’s, like Glenn Miller”
had wave blue eyes I swam in.
Knew me better than I knew myself.
Is married now to someone else.
He called to make amends –
apologize for choices he knew better than.
Said he loves me still – he always will.
I saw the color fall from mom’s face.
“She’s going!” I said.
Pat and I grasped her hands.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name.”
This is it. So gentle.
Then gone. Her final gift to us.
Death, fearless, light as air.