Anthony W. Pahl

THE PHOTOGRAPH
(Part recollection – Part interpretation – All PTSD)

Thousand Yard StareI was really happy with this background
and it was from a photo from Vietnam;
an authentic 1,000-yard stare…

We had just gotten back from a patrol
night ambush
no contact with the enemy
but expectation does the same thing
or worse.
At least when the fight starts you are moving,
doing something.
No time to think,
everything automatic

Waiting is horrible
Yep waiting – it was a tangible entity
Tension – the worry if you really are awake or dreaming;
the trust in you by your mates
and the worry that you’d let them down
all because there was nothing you could do except think.

And if the action started, fears evaporated.
You did what you were trained for
and what you knew you were good at.

And when it was over,
you screamed in mental agony
because you survived
and you knew you should not have
and then…

The mental screams were replaced by the screams of physical agony
and you knew you were the lucky one;
your mate was hit and his guts were hanging out
and you remember murder only days before

Sorry – I should not have gone on like that.
Different time:
Empty eyes but crammed mind.

My eyes are empty
No problems
Food for another poem

Author’s Note: This represents an actual conversation that was more an exercise in artistic development more than the telling of a factual story. That is not to say that the story is not based in facts.