#218 v15,11:125

20th anniversay issue #4
JOHN HORVATH Jr : At the Gates

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Lives in an eggshell surrounded by pain. Thank you for serving; don't do it again! Lived for a time under a highway overpass in a cave dug with an entrenching tool between two big slabs of retaining wall. The highway commission took care of that; they bulldozed then burnt out the rat. He lived in a box too near to a school where children who saw him threw rocks and were otherwise cruel to be cool-- they mocked, they mimicked, they spat. The Welfare engine took care of all that. Lived in a who-dat beside the R&R track like a hobo, a drifter, a man without love, who fell from our graces a long while back though once he was normal, a jock and an all-around promising kid with a dad had worked hard to make both ends meet and extra for mama, his gal down the street, and something for gin on a Saturday night down at the Legion Hall with the guys who all went when they had been sent not a one expressing surprise. Lived in a poverty bungalow, attended a church, expected to go on to college, the son of a man without much knowledge beyond family, God, country, and craft. In 'Sixty, he signed up for the draft. He lives in a shell surrounded by pain. Thank you for serving; don't do it again! Lived in a barracks the size of a pool, trained to fight, become a powerful tool of policy wonks whose kids were in school or otherwise serving their time in Peace Corps type programs that promised release. Lived in a jungle both day and night black listened to rock; just wanted to go back to the daily routines on the old block, get married and settled and all of that but somehow was injured, discharged with a chest full of ribbons, the coward too fearful of dying he'd rather come back to be one of the bums one sees along Main; He ain't so normal, more than probably weak. Panhandles dimes for the taste of the stuff, smiles at heaven when life's not too tough. We've seen him in photos (lives on a grate, unshaven with wrinkles: a camera's meat). How does he die? Oh, a little by little unlike his heroes who've fallen in battle, unlike John Wayne who fights over and over, unlike those who die pleasantly fat with children in braces around a soft bed, unlike a friend, a coworker, a likeable sort. He lives in a shell surrounded by pain. Thank you for serving; don't do it again! It don't matter once a war has been fought, the paraders so pretty. so formal, so straight and so tall have marched off and blended back into the crowd of working-class Bobs who pay taxes, of whom we are proud. Don't ask him, don't need to open old wounds; don't trouble yourself 'cause didn't smoke weed or take up protest at corporate greed or for civil-rights laws. He just was our foreign policy tool fool. He lives in a shell surrounded by pain. Thank you for serving; don't do it again! How do they die when the wound doesn't bleed? when release from the pain is a constant new need? Slowly at first. Being wronged builds like a venom in the system to break skin and bend bones, curl the sinews and to warp a good mind. First by word then by gesture, some child's peek- a-boo look; then call him a 'gimp', point, some similar mishap of good common sense. Indignities build, add aches to the pain. Then say it is age not pain that makes rage. How do they die? You say, 'slowly at first'? Humor is lost when we call him a gimp; or move him upstairs to laugh at his limp; (don't shed no tears; he ain't hurt he's just old; make him prove he's a cripple--the boss isn't sold-- again and again, he must be faking for gain!) The wounded are liars deserving disdain, How dare they remind us of all of that pain! They ought to be dead, are dead if they live so long so wronged that they cannot forgive. A new Hindu immigrant Doc at the veteran clinic isn't convinced, it's religious, she isn't a cynic: back home the elders with mantras in mind never complain of the pain Americans find in the tiniest places; oh no, it just isn't so. Lives in an eggshell surrounded by pain. Thank you for serving; don't do it again!

POETRYREPAIRS #218 v15,11:125

At the Gates

We are paused outside paradise where peacocks stride parallel to grand pearl gates they guard. Who stands beside me wise and strong? Where so many timid congregate, it must be hell.

POETRYREPAIRS #218 v15,11:125

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Since the 1960s JOHN HORVATH Jr has published his poetry in African, Asian, European, and North American journals. In 1997, He began editing poetryrepairs.com

slavery is illegal in almost everyt nation on earth but still exists everywhere