A Veteran at the Art Museum
by Monica Deck
my friend took me to the art museum.
In those gardens, there is a place
walls of gray rock in wire fencing,
the concrete path leading an angle down
subterranean, I heard a dripping that might have just
been in my head.
My foot steps echoed, walking
to the other end,
to that small light
up the stairs into a sunken spanse
twenty-foot walls of earth
green and lush in autumn sun
but walls just the same,
just like the rocks
and the sand surrounding Bagram.
Lawyer and soldier,
pilot of a dying breed
the Midwest is your cornfield grave
since you survived that desert, after all.
Guns and bombs have ticking parts,
not like hearts.
All that blood and sinew
has no instruction manual.
in ways not commonly found
equipped with thoughts and words considered more appropriate
for the private hours of too many drinks at the bar
for the shrink sessions
for the haven of mass-produced cotton sheets on marriage beds.
the opposite of love’s indifference
we feel it all
but we lie about it through gritted teeth
it peels us and we hide it with silence
squeezing out the bullets on a cold range
wearing clothes like masks
keeping walls between bodies
and looking at a southbound highway
with nothing but dread.
The final exhibit, that darkened room
is like the hypnosis of climbing stairs
a foot reaching for another step,
jolted at the top, a longer descent than expected
because you think it’s a shadow
or a painted wall
and it’s really just a hole
a trick of light
and it makes those holes in our hearts
instead of winter tourists in a Florida beach town.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal January 22, 2017.