original photo: matthew stinson / illustration: metagramme

By the Garden Wall

I picture you, just there
by the garden wall. Shaded
by honeysuckle, blueing
in the twilight: man of war
against a frame of flowers.
Me rooted on the porch. The gulf
of time apart.

Nephews and fireflies among your knees
break the silence.
Maybe a son of your own by now.
Big green eyes, dusty brown knees.
Sings all day, like any true savior.

Though your hands twitch,
there’s a hush in your face. The look
of a man who saw death
and escaped it. The isolation
of one who also gave it.

Shadows grow. You stride
across the lawn to help a little one
onto the swing. One last push before bedtime.
Even your rolling gait has changed,
piqued by shrapnel.

You’d sworn silence.
Wouldn't unburden if you could.
The story would shift its jaws,
twisting for deeper purchase
in the meat of your back.
Drawing fresh blood
in the telling.