The mass-killing this last week helped me (Steve) finish a poem
started over a year ago . . .
Our neighbor, a decorated veteran,
lived in a small home, solitary,
an upstairs light on all night,
a flag unfurled year-round, alone.
Baggy combat fatigues on a spindly frame,
at 8am everyday he locked up, saluted,
began a sleight limp that metered him
along a sequence of the same streets .
He paused at overgrown bushes,
held a cigarette with hands that shook
and checked each house
with watery eyes and a far-away look.
He leaned through wind and rain,
stopped only when a siren blared
or an engine backfired.
Neighborhood dogs just stared.
He didn’t talk war, even when asked.
Some of us saw an American patriot,
wounded; others, a cripple, collateral damage
from our military-industrial nation.
Each thought they knew him right
by what they saw and heard at night.
On the day he missed
I heard the shot and caught a fright.
I found him slumped on his kitchen table,
the back of his head gone, the wall
splattered with blood, brain and bone,
a hollow-point .44 slug sent him home.
Near what remained of his head
a crumpled, splattered note read,
“I protected my country . . . who
protects them from each other___”
No one remembers him smile
but, once in awhile I did,
in his backyard, lying low,
watching his cat stalk a fat crow.