At one a.m. I left the bar,
The one back home I frequented
Where on the wall a picture hung
Of me in Mosul I’d mailed home,
Hung more so out of patronage
Than patriotic duty; where my peers drank
And lived in ramshackle row-homes
In the shadow of the old mill
Worked menial jobs, but were better than me.
And un-emphatically asked “how many
Did you kill, Army boy?”
Blurry-eyed and slightly drunk,
I crossed the tracks and walked
Over the bridge, ruminating over the
Worst question you could ever ask a vet.
I caught sight of the French 75;
The town memorial to the Great War.
And it spoke, its old gray form
Cast orange by the street light.
And in my head I heard the sounds
Of not too long ago
The gentle night’s breeze carrying
The din from a far-off battle as I
Walked that familiar mile home,
My hands fidgeting in my pockets, keeping
Them from patting my torso
Looking for the rifle still slung in my mind.
Formless shapes watching me in
The dark; only the dead to keep me
Company on this foot patrol tonight.
And as the battle in my head faded,
I contemplated the men who worked
That French 75, and why they called
It the Great War; I faced no trenches, no
Gas, no frontal assaults. They will erect
No stone for our wasted war and yet,
I felt ashamed to align myself in name
With they – true veterans of a foreign war.
The sounds were in my head again,
And despite the endless missions and
The unrelenting foot patrols, that one
Mile walk home was the longest of all.