by Russell Brickey
5 p.m., winter—
a man stood before my freshman dorm
with a woman in a wheelchair.
“I used to go to school here,”
he said, “but then I was drafted for
the Korean War.” He clearly wanted
to talk, but I was young,
uncomfortable, not knowing
what to say, so I muttered something and
stumbled up the steps, leaving
him gazing up at the building
through the millennium scope of his Coke-bottle-glasses.
The woman in the chair was his wife,
I suppose, bloated, bundled
into a coarse blanket and skull
cap, hands laced across the folds
in her lap, an accessory to the life
that this man remembered
perhaps too fondly.
This should be a poem
about the ravages of war, the impertinence
of youth, the terrible force of nations,
the failures of the body,
and the timelessness of love.
Neither of them spoke as they watched together.
I can still see his wife—
her face was a damaged plum,
her body an aged cabbage.
I remember leaves and the featureless sky.
So I guess this is only a still life
of an unlucky man in worn fatigues
looking up at a row of windows
behind which time is drunk with youth.
And I’m sorry.