Saturday, 16 December 2017

Winner of the Purple Heart

by Marty Eberhardt

Tall, fair, athletic, an excellent student
He was headed,
By everyone’s calculation,
For greatness.
The habit of discipline kept him achieving
After the war, but it could not stay his hand
From the bottle.

He was the war hero who cried
As he shoveled a dead squirrel
Into the garbage,
The man whose hands shook
On the steering wheel
As he drove across a bridge.
He listened, of an evening,                  
To opera,
Eyes martini-soft with memories.
His family watched for the soft eyes,
Then the sudden angers.
The irony pricked them:
His anaesthetic grew their pain.

How many hearts
Lie bruised like his
In the breasts of soldiers?
How many of their children
Speak with a steady voice
Belying their tremors.
Let us not forget
To add them
To the spreadsheets of statistics
Detailing the costs of war.

* * * * *

"Winner of the Purple Heart" was first published in the 2015 edition of The Guilded Pen, the annual anthology of the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild

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