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Veteran's Screed: 11/11/21

by LK Barrett

Veteran's Screed-LK Barrett

I am a veteran of the apathy war—

a timeless soldier of relentless joy,

and I am listening to liars,

from dawn to dusk—

divided from the cemetery bells,

the tender lilies

of the guilelessly brave,

scratching from inside

the unsubtle grave.

I am the ghost dance,

the phantom stampede

of mustang and bison-

living thunder, drumming

up from the prairie floor.

Oh, America, we were

your open heart before

—as the iron in you aligns

with the planet's whirling core

and the mad world's

machinery is set spinning,

in men’s hearts once more,

held gently in the spotted

hands, wavering songs

of the aging children of the

greatest generation,

still glimpsed shining

as newborn revelation

through cherry blossoms

along the Mall. I am the beam

in your brother’s eye,

and I am the mote in yours.

I am the small voice that trebles

from conflict to conflict,

calling true,

“war is failure,” yet

I never fail you—I am always heard

when doubt is

set in motion as the wings of birds,

that random movement

that presses flesh against

other flesh until we are all

the same bodies,

left as memory and darkness

on yet another field of poppies.

I am the voice of poetry from above,

a tender moment declaring we

hold that this is love, love for what must be

scrawled boldly, in and

across eternity:

the haiku that read

"Lotus flowers sing

delicately floating

dirges for the dead," and then

"I am as immense as I choose to be," it said

(And I choose to be immense).

So, wake up each morning

And say these words: Say:

“I am a verse inscribed on the

porcelain hands and

and twisted feet

of the dying God."

Say, “I choose to seal the cracks.

I choose to heal the wounded earth..

I choose to bring the defectors, the

conscientious objectors, the

bits that don’t quite fit

in the spaces between patriots

and the imperfect" —or,

Say, "I choose to not forget we are one species

and there are glimpses to be caught

between the tragic mistakes,

glimpses that are ought but light.”

And just for today let’s make it right.

When we are seized by the

incomprehensible need

to stop listening and start shooting,

we’ll meet back here In this place.

Wherever we are in the world,

Whatever stanza of this poem

We’re struggling through—



and know who we are.

Know the size of this tender soul

that trembles as it speaks,

and the virgin reaches

of the mountain peaks, climbing

the naked vertical expanse

of the holy possible

stretching into deliverance,

and the bright between

what we hold in memory,

and what we've seen.


Author's Note: ...for all my brothers and sisters in arms...

Posted on 12/01/2021
Copyright © 2024 LK Barrett

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by James L. Auerbach on 01/27/22 at 01:22 AM

For those of us that served (at least this one who served), this resonates at just the right wavelength.

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