Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | November 10, 2012

Waiting for the Parade – A Poem for Veteran’s Day


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,

-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 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 lamppost

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

Bouncing too loudly against my ears

and echoing 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my uniform is out of date,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. Oh, my, Thomas. This is an amazing, moving, poem. It is, I assume, an original piece written by you? May I share it?

  2. This is a poem I wrote years ago as a part of a chapbook, “Finding the way Home,” You may share it as you wish. Even though I wrote it, the poem still makes my throat tighten.

    • This poem made me cry and moved me beyond words. Thomas…this is amazing. Thank you for writing this and yes, I want to share.

  3. Parade or no… stand tall. You’re home.

    • OMG.

    • Thank you. Yes, I’m home and some of my friends aren’t.

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