The evening horizon appeared bruised.
Sunlight slithered off, silently.
Darkness crept like a cougar,
Its crisp shadow chilled my skin.
My eyes erupted, shattering silence, heaving tears.
Sheets of paper, official, type written,
Trembled in my hands,
Rattling like a snake after a strike,
Fangs still moist, blood stained.
The news, frightful words, venomous,
Surged though my veins,
Numbing my arms,
Death raced closer to my heart.
I collapsed to the dust,
Curled in a ball,
Frail like a tumbleweed,
But I didn’t move.
Wind rushed right by.
I prayed to roll away,
To be swooshed along the prairie
Taken to wherever tumbleweeds go.
But I lay, like a stone, with wind whistling by;
A cold stone,
Marking the end of my life.
Won’t be marching
A little heart brought me back to life.
I imagined it no bigger than Johnny’s,
When his mother,
Probably dancing with him now,
First told me he was coming.
Being a father was a good thing,
The medal dangled from a ribbon,
Wide purple with thin white stripes,
Heart shaped, bordered with Heaven’s gold.
On the front,
George Washington’s profile in a sea of purple,
On the back,
“For Military Merit.”
It felt cool in my fist.
I clenched it,
Trying to find life,
The beginning of a prayer.
I squeezed the medal so hard
My palm bled.
I sensed a trace of a breeze, warm.
A voice, I didn’t notice on the prairie.
With each wisp of wind, I heard,
Reminding me, “I know.”
Every time the wind blew, a whisper,
I saw, I listened, I survived.
Johnny’s body stopped a bullet streaking for an Afghan girl;
A county’s future.
I wear the Purple Heart with pride,
Pinned over my own;
I leave the prairies to the tumbleweeds.
I spend a lot of time in the mountains,
Me and wind,
Standing on a great granite rock,
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