Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | November 10, 2011

Another Poem from “FINDING THE WAY HOME”

This poem pictures a Vietnam Veteran going out to watch a parade that welcomes the victorious troops from Desert Storm as they come home.


I had that dream again last night,
or maybe today…
dressing for a parade,
but couldn’t find everything I needed;
medals, rank insignia, or unit crests;
always something different,
but always something missing.
Memories of war
-at first
ran just under my feet
like foreshortened shadows
following at midday;
when yesterday was no more than darkness
before this day’s light.
All senses remembered too much
and fear stabbed the gut
like frozen glass shards
or rage stung
like sweat in an open gash.

But here I stand anyway,
among all these people on main street,
-still wearing my beret,
– my faded tiger-stripe fatigues,
and waiting for the homecoming parade
under this new American sky.

I’m looking through the crowd
for the others,
wondering if their uniforms fit
and if they have their ribbons.
Months of war-stretched memory
numbed into distortion,
a long darkening trailed my boots
leaving only momentary shade,
and disappearing holes
in watery mud.
Footprints in tall grass lifted back,
stretched in long afternoon sun,
unbent again by evening
showing no sign of passage.

Trumpets sound,
so distant that fluttering banners
and muffled pop of yellow ribbons
hide their songs.
American flags reach from every lamp post
like open arms
stretching in spring winds
to touch and bless
victorious columns in desert tan.

Shadows hide in night
like war’s remembering,
waiting for morning’s eyes to cling
mocking every clumsy movement,
faster than running can escape,
burning through flesh like white phosphorus
cleaving to the bone
with a phantom ache of loss
like pain in an amputated limb.

I cannot march to this coming drum
that will bounce too loudly against my ears
and echo back from The Wall;
my uniform is out of date,
-colors out of style,
-decorations incomplete.

Unfaithful visions,
-blacker in strange winter light
mutable as shifting colors
walking beside me on unquiet waters.

That old land may have remembrance,
but not of me.
My passing shadow touched its earth
more faintly than the wavering reflection
I throw in a lake.

when the brassy ”Stars and Stripes Forever“
leads young heroes past chanting crowds
my toes, in worn-out jungle boots
will twitch to feel the rhythmic stamp,
my shoulder will bear the rifle’s weight,
and my ears,
filled with the surf beat of welcoming cheers
will let me pretend,
for a time,
I did not return alone.


  1. Your excellant writing skills evoke such “vision.” To draw a breath and weep…then smile. Your character stands strong despite the wearing of memories and years. Thank you Thomas.
    Virginia Lee

    • Thank you, Virginia. Some people misunderstand and think that I resented the Desert Storm troops. No. I was pained to see how fickle the public can be toward its
      military people. But then, old Kipling noticed that long ago. Thanks again.

  2. Very vivid – I have chills!

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