ABIGAIL B. CALKIN
Why He Is Who He Is
As he packed his duffle bags
I smelled the thick odor of canvas,
odor of Einstein’s
Army Surplus store.
When he returned,
They smelled of dry sand
stuck in every stitch of canvas.
Twenty years later he uses one every week
as he flies back and forth to Juneau.
On the faded bottom
his rank, name, and SSN barely
recognizable even to the two of us.
He has calmed.
Does not yell so much.
Still doesn’t like sudden change,
especially from the rear.
“I’ll get another check this week.”
Thanks it says. Thanks for three tours.
Thanks for 28 years
years that changed your life for the better
years that make your soul ache unpredictably.
I don’t know where Uncle Joe’s leather helmet went.
Did you give it to Seth or Abi, Barry or Phil?
The one he wore as a WW II pilot.
I hear your stories
Green canvas, uniforms, patches, blood,
four rows of ribbons,
blown out of bed, helicopters,
boots, perfection, 18 years old,
Jim Carlson, Lon Binh, Pleiku,
Bedouins, reconstructing a face,
sadness, hugs, tears, drained the life
I stroke his hand, each finger
wide from his work at the chainsaw or sawmill,
his 41 zigzag stitches lost in swollen flesh.
When he returned from the desert
delicate stitching of others’ surgeries reduced
his own swelling and I could stroke
his jagged, chainsawed scar again.
poetryrepairs #211 15,04:047
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