Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | November 10, 2013

Poem for Veteran’s Day

This poem was written when a friend, Dr. Sue Walker, challenged me—in a phone conversation—to write a poem about wallpaper.

I imagined a disabled veteran lying in his bed watching the changing of light and progress of the seasons.  This is from the chapbook, Finding The Way Home. The title is Veteran’s Day.


The windows of my winter room face south,
days move in cyclic patterns,
shadows and light,
against the distant wall.

First touches of late dawn
dimly light flowers on the wallpaper
past curved green steel
at the foot of my bed.

Large petals, once bright
as the floral pattern of Mother’s dress,
vivid in the black and white snapshot
that shows her smiling,
holding a child that once was me.

Tiny wildflowers I can see in midmorning,
illuminate spring-day memories in green light;
a lake of blue forget-me-nots
the patchwork quilt, our private island,
and afternoon–infinity.

Hard light of noon,
cold this late in the year,
brings out the stain,
(too far for me to touch again)
that seeped from inside and spread,
dark as old blood on a sidewalk
in Saigon’s Street of Flowers,
at Tet: The Year of the Monkey.

Long slanting light of winter evening,
(sliding quickly now, across the far wall)
glows red like nights of neon, there,
where slender black-haired girls
sold their flowers, wrapped in cheapest paper,
cut off in morning, shriveled by noon.
(I had not known roses could be garish;
gladiolus, tawdry.)

The open door sucks up terminal light,
as into a black hole
until night drops like a collapsing tent,
a phantom weight where my legs once lay.

Mercury vapor lamps outside glow blue;
like parachute flares that began with a pop
then hung and fell,
swinging in metronomic quiet,
provoking quick machinegun spatters,
-tracers burning like quick meteors
into awful silence-
and moving shadows of winter’s skinny limbs
bounce their wind-dancing mockery
across flat, empty blankets.

only the cycling turn
spinning this vast wheel of darkness and light
touches me now
-since that hard, high flash:
truncating pain
that tied this shell as souls are tied,
over curving junctures of black and white,
yin and yang,
lying in detritus of yesterdays
-waiting with the rest for dawn.


  1. Thank you, Thomas. Shared this on my Facebook timeline with attribution.

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