The Brother In The Wheel Chair

Place is really large, I thought
Making my way across the sprawling, hospital campus.
Building B….Building B. Where the hell is it?
There!

Nicely manicured lot.
Short walk to a bank of doors facing the street.
Passing buses parked along the curb.

Men parked on benches along the sidewalk.
“Hey man, got a smoke?”
“No sorry, don’t smoke.”
Shoulders shrug.

Inside, the foyer is small and full of men.
Old and broke looking like the buildings interior
Loungers
Bull shitters

Lots of ball caps on old men’s heads
Black hat, yellow lettering
Korean vet…..Vietnam vet……Ship numbers……Semper Fi
Look for my old unit on someone’s head. Saw none. Never do.

I saw the brother in a wheel chair sitting in the corner of the room.
Missed him on first glance.
Don’t know how I could have.
His eyes, locked in fight or flight, filled the room with their emptiness. (Does he ever blink?)

A sensitive soul perhaps
Unable to make the midnight blast from family farm to killing field
Had not the bravado to shake hands with the dead
Nor shake the smell of napalm from his nose

Taught the fight was among men
Hand to hand on the field of battle
Glory…..Honor and heroism.

No one mentioned the sight of children dying
And old women crying
And old men frying.

The brother in a wheel chair
Had a tale to tell
But it seemed that few could listen
As the truth is hard to hear
No need
His eyes, they told it for him.

As I passed him in the lobby
And he sat there all alone
It took me less than a minute to think this thought
The brother in a wheelchair appeared to have been
Locked in the same thought for the last forty years.

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One comment

  1. Jami

    …I just can’t imagine. Beautiful poem, and I wonder about that man right now, and all of you for that matter…what it must have been like to come back after all that, and just act “normal”, to suddenly be without your brothers, the only ones that would ever understand. I saw an in-depth interview of several soldiers in Iraq, and how the bonding that occurred with their fellow soldiers was more powerful than any bond they’d made.

    I’m sorry you had to endure that. You were just a young innocent man. That goes for all those men and women fighting today.

    Thank you for sharing this poem.

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