I visited Walter Reed once, with
My then not-yet ex-wife, to
Visit a distant cousin of hers
Who had lost both his legs in
Afghanistan. I stood in his room with
Strangers I knew nothing of and
Who had no clue I’d served time
Too and listened to them lament.
And the kid, 19 I believe, was met
By a squad-mate who’d been hit
In the blast also, losing hearing
In one ear and taking shrapnel to
The face and arm. They began to
Catch up – talking of that day that
Was only a few weeks go through
A percocet and fentanyl haze.
Spitting lingo none of the family
In the room understood but I did;
Being very soldierly (Marines they were)
Joking the pain away with “Dude I
Think some of your leg blew into my
Mouth” and other gruesome things
That we all had joked about at one time.
And I felt a sense of pride and connection
With these kids, as if I were part of their
Conversation, understanding every bit
And piece, every acronym. And for a while
I was back in the billets, or on the trucks
And waxing quixotic with the men after
The days big events, nursing light wounds.
And in my mind I was talking right with them;
Listening to their tale, agreeing right along
With them – “Yeah crush-plate is the worst” or
“Fucking bombs made out of wood – mine sweeper
Don’t quite catch that.” And as I looked around
I realized, I was invisible – invisible to everyone.
I was on the outside looking in – and they
Didn’t see me nor would they ever. Because to
Them if they even knew I was present then,
I wasn’t one of them so how would I understand?
In a way I was these young men laid up in
Some hospital room shooting the shit –
Remembering what it was like, and how bad it was –
And yet I was absolutely nothing like
Them at all. I was just invisible – an outsider.