Liilia Talts Morrison

(August 20,1937 / Estonia)

The Veteran


He sits there on the circle
Hair clipped, military style
Turned white and thin long ago
His T-shirt now gray from many washings
Short sleeves still rolled up tight
Like back in training camp

His frame is trim, skin sallow now
Too many cigarettes and coffee cups
Too little nourishment
After things fell apart
After he got out
And couldn't find a way
To get on the track
Others seemed to tread

He sits there on the circle
Meant for those who have the time
To sit and watch
Most just passing through
With their shopping bags
And children romping
Dogs taking a leak

He sits there every day
Some days are crowded
Some are not
He always looks alone
Because he is

His bed in the cheap hotel
Is surely trim and neat
With pants folded
Under the mattress
To keep their crease
Probably his only long pants
The T-shirt probably his only one
For he does not shop
Cannot shop

Cigarettes and coffee
Take most of his money
And of course, the rent
So much more
Than this place is worth
He has no where else to go

He does his routine
Like he used to march
And clean his gun
And even once was in a skirmish

The war was over long ago
The war the only real thing
He had, has
Even now
Except of course
That other war
Inside
The one he will never conquer
Never win
It goes on and on

The other day that spot
His spot on the circle was empty
Nobody really noticed
For they did not notice him ever
He was like a ghost
From somewhere else
Nobody wanted to look there

A few days later
They noticed a stink
Down the hall on the second floor
In that hotel
It was a familiar smell
One they smelled
About every couple of months

Medics came with blank faces
They had seen this many times
It was their job
The tenants wondered
Who of their friends
Could get that room
How much would they raise the rent

'Too bad, ' they muttered
on the porch
'Too bad, ' and shook their heads.

Submitted: Friday, December 19, 2008

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