John F. McCullagh

Gold Star - 4,636 Points (09/28/1954 / Flushing)

The Legion Of The Lost - Poem by John F. McCullagh

I lay down on my childhood bed with a bottle, half empty, in my hand.
I raised my pistol to my temple; feeling lost, hopelessly dammed.
I flicked the safety off my forty five and took a pull from my Jim Beam.
I was ready to be a sad statistic, another tortured Ex- Marine.

I pulled the trigger, this much I know. What happened next, I can surmise.
I passed out from the alcohol, the pistol jammed; I didn’t die.

My friend had died at his own hand, just one of six from my old team.
We’re tortured by the ghosts of war; in flashbacks I can hear the screams.
We buried my friend yesterday. The flag was folded and Taps was played.
A detail fired blank salutes as his family wept and his mother prayed.
I bowed my head and turned to go; His mother stayed me with her hand.
“I hope you will not be tempted- to do the thing your brothers do.”
She pressed a spent brass casing into my open hand.
I looked down, dumbly, in surprise.
“I know you are a soul at risk.” I’ve seen that look in my son’s eyes.”
“If only I’d known how to help; only too late do we grow wise.”
She made me promise, then and there, that I’d not put my mother through
the anguish and the agony that other keening mothers knew.
Today I face another day; the journey will be hard, I know.
I poured the bottle down the drain, and turned to face my shadow foe.

Topic(s) of this poem: suicide

Form: Ode

Poet's Notes about The Poem

based on a New York Times article about suicide among returning veterans

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, September 19, 2015

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