Brandon K. Nobles – 8 ½ Behind

Dawn was in her overcoat,
In the acrid air of cigarette smoke,
Drowsy the clock struck ten, she yawned,
The portrait was beside the phone,
Roger in his uniform on the wall
Then she thought back, inside her mind,
For that dusty smell, to find,
That army coat of wool was warm
just like that faded flag and, worn,
folded in a triangle
inside a bureau drawer.

A soldiers life the price for war,
for freedom isn’t free.
it costs one hundred thousand lives
They should just let it be.
The foundation of a nation
Is more than bones and slavery.
The hope is faint but hope is there,
That in the future, someone—somewhere,
the whole world shared, the whole world free.
Perhaps the eldest man will see,
A world he would not disavow.
The question why replaced with how.

Perhaps someone will someday come,
To see the earth with no divisions,
If only this deaf Earth could listen.
Earth has no ears, no sound,
the last lines he ever wrote:
Three months later Vera found
a ragged flag left by the door,
along with an envelope—
the last words that he ever wrote:

I should’ve brought my coat, it read
The one you always wore.
I left it on the coat rack by the door.
They gave me a replacement,
But it doesn’t—hell,
But all I have is this.
It’s one of you sitting in the boat,
With Molly’s dog and overcoat,

Your scent was with me when I left,
And every time I took a breath,
I saw you laughing in the bed.
And if that’s all I have, I guess,
I could be better off.
I love you very much, my Dawn,
I’ll see you when I get home.

It was simple in its prose,
and when she read it there she broke
into pieces like a glass;
She lay there as a shattered mirror,
Memories flitted past;
She heard him laugh,
and saw him smile,
walking toward him down the aisle—
that spark of light that once burned bright,
Inside her dimmed and died.

Wars are not always of land,
Or conquest, genocide,
Sometimes the worst of battles,
Take place inside the mind.
An early night, a glass of wine,
A night alone, the curtains drawn—
One chance to live, one chance to die,
To peek and pine away the time,
And wander night-time like a stray,
The moments die and fall like flies
And you are eaten by the day.
Some hope, some wish, some kill themselves,
Some just to get away,
And they all sing the same old song,
It shouldn’t be this way.

Diane became a shrieking wreck,
Crying wrapped up in that jacket,
Popping pills and drinking vodka
Playing with a loaded shotgun—
But when she slept she saw him young,
When they loved each other dumb
She slept in front of him at night,
Listening to his breathing quiet,
Waiting on him for a while.
To hear him sleep to see that smile,

Euphoria mornings on the beach,
From here to Eternity—
Then she got the news,
He was just another letter,
His wife she dared not read;
but when she saw the folded flag
She fell to her knees and screamed.

Every day she washed the clothes,
But never Roger’s coat.
It smelled like him, his must,
And in the end that was enough.
They rolled around and played
When they were young under the sun
When the future waited warm
They wrestled on the trampoline,
And pinched each others arms.
Of his embrace, and that old coat,
Still in their old room brushed.

That future dreamed of them had flown,
As daffodils in the wind are blown—
Once there for the taking,
Once right there in your hand—
Until the specter Death arose,
And sent you down another path,
Just another unknown road.
You can resist, you can persist,
But you know you have to go.

That old coat was in his room
Still with a man’s Old Spice perfume.
She tried to see the good, their past,
Not Roger in a grave.
Between them all the best they had,
When together holdings hands,
Such a beautiful life to come;
After a pint or two of rum,
She talks to him at night,
And if she’s drunk enough,
She hears him say goodnight.

Soft are the petals when they fall,
And beauty too grows old.
It’s going to be all better,
In the next world we are told
and if that story’s true,
I might see you again
I’ll return that worn-out coat
If Heaven lets us in.

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