The Veteran

by Alexandra the Great

You wouldn’t have known
he was a veteran,
Just by looking at him.
Wouldn’t have known that
Eighteen bullets penetrated
His garb, his helmet, his shoes,
But not his skin
In Vietnam.
Wouldn’t have known
He clutched a young man tight,
As blood poured from his extremities
Shouting words of encouragement
To bring him back from the light.
Wouldn’t have known
He saved that man’s life.

You wouldn’t have known that he was brave,
By the way he would turn radish
At the sight of a beautiful girl.
How his mouth would parch
Like a shriveled leaf
Fallen from the tree,
As he averted his eyes to
All but the thing he wanted to see.

You might have felt sorry for him,
Might have offered him change,
Had he been searching for gold
In a parking lot,
Or the side of the road
Balancing himself on one foot
On a miserable, summer day,
But he doesn’t want anything
He did not earn.
He seeks that which no one looks for,
The lost and forgotten treasures,
That lie there roasting and waiting
For the right hand to give them a home again.

He doesn’t take handouts.
His hands are calloused
From years of building structures,
Fixing furniture,
Loading rifles,
Wiping sweat from his tireless head.
Though he doesn’t require
Acknowledgment,
Doesn’t fish for pats on the back.
Gratitude lies within the framework,
Of his creations
That beam at him from a distance.

You might not have known
There was a lot to be learned,
From lending your ear to this man,
Just an hour or two.
Not by his vulgar terms of endearment
spouted in jest,
Not by the indecent decibel of Keith Urban,
Streaming from his six disk changer,
But if you had turned away too quickly
From this old man,
I am sorry,
For your loss,
Because he could’ve been
Your best friend,
Your wisest teacher,
Who imparts all the knowledge that he has
At the drop of a hat.
If you tuned in, and followed
Closely between what seems
Like senseless rambling,
You might’ve heard,
“A man has to work hard
To be a man every day.
He cannot be content with
The labors of his past.
He must weed the garden,
And tend to his duties
To keep that title as a man.”

He fought a war
That brought little honor,
Just as he made friends
That brought him little honor,
But his life will not go
Unrecognized,
The lives he touched
Are forever changed.
The moments shared
Will be memorialized
Beyond his grave.
His laughter will forever resonate,
As his smile will always permeate
My mind,
As the man who
won the most perilous war,
The war we fight to be alive.

Alexandra the Great came from a back woods town in central Florida. Currently she resides with her husband and her son not too far from where she started. She conceived over one thousand poems from her cerebral loins since she began writing sixteen years ago. You can find most of her work on Allpoetry.com under her alias Alexandrathegreat, which showcases the majority of her pieces. Her poetry has been featured in The Wolfian twice, as well as The Zombie Logic Review, and most recently, 8 West Press. The release of her first published collection, The Angels’ Trumpets, happened last year thanks to Purple Unicorn Media. The book is available to purchase on the editor’s website, or through Amazon and Kindle

One comment

  1. @Alexandra the Great

    I really like this poem. It’s different in that it really captures the mentality and way of looking at the world that often separate the Vietnam vets born and raised in the 50’s compared to the younger generation of vets. The silent suffering, the need to keep going, the view of what constitutes a “man.”

    It’s interesting because I think it touches (though indirectly) on why Vietnam-era vets have such high suicide rates. Looking at the world through this particular veteran’s eyes; not seeking out help ,dealing with your issues, but rather moving forward. It tends to be stifling.

    There isn’t a lot of space for vets such as the one you described to maneuver when you get older, deal with chronic unemployment or health issues, and can’t work or distract yourself anymore. Then the memories come back…

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