On a tasseled bed in some motel,
he stretches out
atop a spreading stain.
Through a crack in the curtain's closing
light, now red, now green
flashes a sickly pallor
on his face
finally at peace:
The bullet with his name on it
has found him at last.
Through years in a life he fought
to seem normal, to seem all right.
Wives, children, girlfriends, jobs
are broken on his trail to this end.
Twisting in torture of night sweats,
of not telling it
of not being able to tell it;
observed by eyes of concern
which cannot touch him.
At length they turn away,
the souls which fire them
--touched by acid poison--
how could those who care
Through years on the street
--you know it, brother, what I'm talking about
just some night of long ago that does not die
when a hell of fiery horror
awoke in the soul to live forever.
Over and over the scene is relived,
projected through the prism
of the bottom of bottles.
In the bar somebody says something--
a fight breaks out--
"The son of a bitch! What does he know?"
He goes home.
His wife is dreaming her dreams
of daily life
in her little time to dream them.
He does not wake her.
The shadows in the room
where he sits shirtless
are monstrous caverns.
Christ, he was only a boy!
Men can be angels if nurtured in light,
yet everything turns on a moment of fate.
Enough. No more. That's it.
One night he flips.
Hostages are taken:
his own wife and children.
The neighbors, the police,
the silence is shattered.
He stands up to to take it in the chest.
At last, for him, the war
Les Reed poems