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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Purple (11/05/09)

TITLE: I Know
By Henry Clemmons
11/11/09


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The evening horizon appeared bruised.
Sunlight slithered off, silently.
Darkness crept like a cougar,
Its crisp shadow chilled my skin.

And then,

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,
My throat,
Breath paralyzed,
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,
A headstone,
Marking the end of my life.

My Johnny
Won’t be marching
Home again.

And then,

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,
Back then.

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,
A reason,
A power.
A hope.
The beginning of a prayer.
Anything.

And then,

I squeezed the medal so hard
My palm bled.
I looked.
I gasped.
I gazed.
I knew.

I sensed a trace of a breeze, warm.
A voice, I didn’t notice on the prairie.
With each wisp of wind, I heard,
“I Know”
Reminding me, “I know.”
Every time the wind blew, a whisper,
“I know.”

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;
My pacemaker.

And now,

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,
Taking turns
Saying,
“I know.”


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This article has been read 419 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 11/15/09
This is so very sad.
Betty Castleberry11/15/09
A beautiful way to tell this sorrowful story. I liked it very much.
Virgil Youngblood 11/15/09
A wonderful tribute. Great writing.
Patricia Turner11/15/09
Heartbreaking but triumphant in the end. Nicely done.
Barbara Lynn Culler11/15/09
Fantastic imagery! So sad too.
Catrina Bradley 11/15/09
There is nothing here I don't love. This poem is like Jan's Master's Class come to life. I'm left with a painful lump in my throat. Wonderful.
Chely Roach11/15/09
Absolutely riviting...drenched with emotion...perfectly paced. Superb.
Loren T. Lowery11/16/09
The voice within this poem is so real that it vibrates like vocal chords on paper. Beautifully done, evolving into a revealing ending.
Ruth Ann Moore11/16/09
I enjoyed how you unfolded the details one at a time. A beautiful piece.
Jan Ackerson 11/16/09
This is wonderful--what a voice! Your metaphors are stunning.
Gillian Dobson11/18/09
So real, so tender, every line deeply considered, nothing superfluous. You have painted a word picture of the intangible inner life. Well done.
Bryan Coomes11/18/09
Powerful piece that was beautifully and vividly written.
Bryan Ridenour11/18/09
Superbly written tribute to a true hero. Well done.