Jackie R. Kays

(A Narrative Poem)

It’s the dead of night; he can
hear that lonely whistle echoing
from that distant freight train blowing.

A white cloak is shuttled in by the
icy northern winds, and covering
everything but humanities sins.

Shivering, teeth chattering as he tries
unsuccessfully to close the flapping,
wet cardboard box lid.
His makeshift home under this
old wooden trestle bridge:
trying to stay warm and hidden.

He pulls the tattered, hole infested, olive drab
blanket up around him and painfully groans,
but to no avail. The chill is in his bones.

In the pocket of that old fatigue jacket rest the medal
now tarnished, scared and forgotten by all,
but once upon a time…
Oh! How it did shine.

He takes one last sip from that bottle of
grape delight. While his thoughts drift back
to the good times when his life was young
and bright to the love of his newborn child and the
warmth of his young wife. Those were the days
before he returned from the jungle fight of his life.

Death, destruction, fear, anger and life long despair;
a war in which nothing that he would ever experience
could compare and the ghosts of his past haunt his
every waking moment;
it’s more than anyone should have to bear.

Hours have passed, the temperature has quickly
dropped below zero, and the white ghost of winter
has entombed this fall hero.

His pitiful shivering has slowly stopped; the pain
and suffering fades away as he releases his grip on
the bottle of courage and slowly falls into eternal sleep.
Now… thirty-five years later, this worrier’s
ghostly despair… never again will he have to bear.