No Veteran Shall Die Alone

I hear his footsteps
near a focal plane
he looked at a world
through old lenses
tripping with amputee’s
lamentations, eyes bursting
diabetes more than dietary
benign medical diagnosis

he pushed into my life
wheelchair red, hair unkempt
man on a mission
homeless then, institutionalized
the place of my temporary work

he talked of Brazil one day
skirting along Copa Cabana
he shared cachaça
with me and others on Pacific
on my Oregon coast with vets
like a blink of my eye
one year ago

happy, a buoyant time
he gushed about a trip to Europe
during better times, a woman, younger
met in Greece
Austrian student
he talked of re-meeting her

he staked out time
trivial pursuit in this facility
he watched movies
talked it up when
hard documentaries pushed
his limits

hidden deep this former
Army grunt, a broken family
father once a mountaineer
reclusive, hoarding affection
yet time was a bell tolled

Chicago father dead one year
before Danny’s demise
old at 71
stuck in a home
hospice on him like a leech
he passed away unknown
unknowing, trapped in lockdown

memory held by poet
his case worker once
holding the line
as he cycled out
lonely, virtually invalid
life alone sucked
him dry nine months later

memory I hold
his photography career
seen his jazzy images
his big studio
brand spanking new
young in this zeal

memory I galvanize
more dying now
than living, being born
how alone we are
crags of some good times
a continual wanting
of travel, minds glued
to uneven remembrances

Danny gone August 17, 2020

another flash in my craggy life
this veteran dead, alone
from sweetness of hope
into the dungeons of isolation

this short-timer
dead, alone, a figment

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.