Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Veterans' Day Poem

The flag flown at our home on Veterans' Day, 2015.  Photo by J. Berta

Greetings All:

Today is Veterans' Day.  I thought I would share a poem about a particular group of Veterans for whom I have particular respect.  Those of the Vietnam War.  

He Doesn't Care by Jeno Berta

When he returned, there were no cheering crowds.
No bands played, no flags waved,
No children holding hand-made signs.
He didn’t care.
He just wanted a beer.

He had been warned.
Warned by others of stranger rage,
Of icy stares, of silent scorn.

He told himself he didn’t care.
That being home was enough.
In one piece.
And away …
Away from that horrid place…
That place of death.
That place that stole a year of his life.

But now, now, he was home.

He missed Christmas, but he didn’t care.
It was cold, a cold he had forgotten.
A year in the jungle has that effect.
He embraced the cold and snow and ice and frost.
So long as his Zippo shot forth flame, he was fine.

The Zippo.  It was just one of many things that was with him that year.
One of his tools.
This one for fire.
Others for war.
All of them, always, close by.

On his parent’s porch,
He held court with the cold,
And his beer,
And his Marlboros,
And, of course,
The Memories.

He thought they would fade.
No way.
No matter, he’d tell himself,
“I don’t care.”

Time passed.
The hair and weight returned. 
He took a bride one day.
Another, he took papers from a Sheriff.
A church was traded for a courtroom.
Marriage over, yet life went on.

And so did the memories.

At night in a darkened bar, he’d huddle with those who knew.
They all said they didn’t care.
They would nod, confirming each other’s lies.

Forty years on the factory floor.
Hard work.
He didn’t care.
Until it was over.

Now there was more time.
More time in the yard.
More time in the garage.
And yes, more time with the memories.
Still not faded,
Still there,
Especially at night,
In the dark,
In his dreams.
He didn’t care.
At least that’s what he told himself.

The Zippo?  In some drawer, or maybe a box. 
He didn’t know.
He didn’t care.
His last cigarette was years ago.
About the time he met her.

“Her” is wife #2. 
This time, it worked out.
Of this, he does care.

She, like him, had taken vows before.
From that union came two children.
From those two children came a grandchild.
She calls him “Papa.”

She’s not his blood.
He does not care.
Of her love, he cares so.

One day she comes to him.
“Papa, please come to my school.”
Her eyes are big, her smile wide.

He asks her, “Why?”
Yet of the answer, he knows.
Still the answer must come from her.

She tells.
He agrees.
They go.

The day comes.

On a metal chair, he sits.
Then stands.
For the flag.

Children sing,
A speech is made.
All applaud.

Applaud the honored guests,
Of which, he is one.

It’s Veterans’ Day.
Papa’s Day.
His day.
Finally, it’s his day.

At home later, with his wife,
He tells the tale,
Of the day,
Of his thoughts,
Of his burdens,
Of the war,
Of his sins,
Of his rage,
Of his loves,
Of it all.

He holds her,
And he cries.

He doesn’t care.

He’s finally free,
Free to truly not care.

Dedicated to the brave men and women who served in the Vietnam War.  Welcome home.

Be well my friends,

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