A Veteran

By Reginald Gibbons


A Veteran

My father came down not killed

from among others, killers or killed,

for whom he’d worn a uniform,

and he lived a long afterward


a steady man on the flattest of plains.

I called after him many times, surprised

when I heard the catch in my own voice.

He didn’t know how to find the solace


of listening to someone else speak of

what he’d seen and survived.

He himself closed his own

mouth against his own words.


In the wrong sequence, his spirit,

then his mind, and last his body

crossed over that infamous, peat-inky,

metaphorical water that has no shore.


I think he was carried like a leaf

in currents so gentle that a duckling,

had it been alive, could have braved them,

but too strong for a leaf.  And saturated


with minerals that steadily replaced

organic cells, the water turned my father,

an ex-soldier, to leaf-delicate stone inscribed

with the axioms of countless veins.

Reginald Gibbons has published 10 books of poems, most recently LOST LAKE (Chicago 2016), a critical book, HOW POEMS THINK (Chicago 2015), and many other works, including translations of poetry from Spanish and ancient Greek, and the novel SWEETBITTER.  His book of short fiction, ORCHARD IN THE STREET, is forthcoming from BOA Editions.

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