There is an old man

who has done his work,

plowed up and down freeways

or the circumference of a cornfield

until the dull light nearly blinded him,

who has heard again the mortar round

and slumped over a steering wheel

on his way to dinner

on his way home from a war.


That old man

wishes a boy well, squeezes

his shoulder, sets aside tomatoes

on the countertop,

hands him a vintage rifle

to hang above the fireplace,

teaches him war is no boy’s game

and to be with a woman wisely

he must weather well on the cold days.


Another old man resents

the swelling of his knuckles,

curses the Dianas jogging past

as he half steps the boulevard.

In his late night wine

he sees the shaving of a soldier’s head

and rows of bunks in barracks,

wishes the boy no better that he had

and prays for worse.


That old man

demands the end rock and roll,

mourns the rotting of his uniform,

the signing of the truce,

dreams boys into the Balkans,

blackens skylines with waste.

Banners in the square only stiffen his leer.

His tanks will chew the bodies of the young

even as they chant at his bronze feet.


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