Judith L. Floyd

THE MAN IN THE CARDBOARD HOUSE

In a cardboard house, an old Man sits
near a busy street;
gloves that have no fingers
no shoes upon his feet

People hurry past him,
and I think I know why,
to ignore him is much easier
than to look him in the eye

What no one knows about him
what no one wants to hear
is who this homeless stranger was
in his younger years

His high IQ had served him well
but he left college at his best
and he went to serve his country
proudly with the rest

In the jungle he saw terror
on the faces of his friends
sometimes he heard their dying words
and held them to the end

In the hill fights he tried to understand
when Monday’s fight they’d win
on Tuesday they would leave their prize
to Mr. Charles again

He came home a changed man
disillusions held him fast
a man whose once bright future
was now haunted by his past

He could not face his family
they would not understand
the things that he’d been forced to do
in that foreign land

He’d lost the dreams he’d harbored
just one short year ago
his mind no longer coping
with what he’d come to know

No one called him hero
no one once said thanks
what he did he did in vain
one more grunt in the ranks

In this way he grew older
lonely and depressed
no longer did he comb or shave
or care how he was dressed

Nobody cared about his pain
or noticed his lapel
that bore the sergeants stripes he wore
the prize he’d won in hell

So he ended up another face
buried in the crowd
to look at him you’d never guess
that one time he’d been proud

And soon this man was just a ghost
who wandered out of sight
until he found a doorway
to settle for the night

And this is where you’ll find him
just watching passersby
this educated hero
no one dares look in the eye