Magnifying The Past
The conflict was over.
They said that didn’t they?
Not victors that April of ’75—
A time for the eagle to roost,
Mend its wounds.
And those who had gone before
Knew the terrible secret.
The one we who had yet
Would soon learn.
Our conflict had just begun.
The reliving of so many months
Of long days and longer nights
Took us to a lower plane,
Where our stories,
With their intense, intricate detail,
Would all too often raise questions
About tomorrows weather
Leaving us to stand alone
In the crowd of family and friends
Who had become more like strangers
Why we couldn’t fit in,
Why we would drink too much,
Why we lost our sense of humor,
Why we kept the lights on all night,
Why we couldn’t keep a steady job,
Why we kept looking over our shoulders,
Why we would flinch at any sudden sound,
Why we roamed through the house at two a.m.,
Why we kept a round in the chamber of the gun,
Tucked under our pillow,
Why we would sit for hours with that blank stare,
That said, “I’m in a place where you can never go.”
Why we would cry.
Whiskey and smokes soften the edges
Of memories better forgotten.
We sit hunched over a table
Bathing in the security of harsh light.
We see the muzzle flashes
From distant tree lines, hear
The zip of passing missiles,
The sickening smack of one finding a target,
The agonizing screams
That wrench our guts
Until we finally realize the screams
Belong to a shell of a man
Sitting at a kitchen table
With half a bottle of amber fluid
And an overflowing ashtray.
To wash away the images
Of earlier battles,
But for that
There is never enough whiskey;
Only enough to mute the present
And magnify the past.