Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Home of the Brave” by Terri Lynn Cummings

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Home of the Brave” by Terri Lynn Cummings.  A brief biography of Ms. Cummings may be found here: http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2015/11/poem-of-day-starving-artist-by-terri.html.

Belisarius Begging for Alms by Jacques-Louis David (1781)
Home of the Brave
Terri Lynn Cummings

Hope is a moving target
for the homeless man. He sits
on a wet, city sidewalk,
cocooned in cardboard, all hot
breath and rum. Images fog
his memory: the high spurs
of Hindu Kush, wild olives and
camel thorn, Paktia and Kabul River.

Beads of water hang from his cardboard
shelter. Like bats in a cave, they drop
and roll down his cheeks. He picks
at the Big Red One infantry patch
on the jacket he wore the day
Al-Qaeda strolled past his camouflaged
nest – blinks, runs a tongue over
crusty lips, tips a bottle of amber burn.

Poet’s Notes:  Early in 2014, I read an article in The Daily Oklahoman that discussed the concern of homeless veterans. I was immediately transported back in time to a trip my husband and I took to Washington, DC, where he and I observed homeless men and women on the sidewalks.  They sheltered under blankets and cardboard in the rain. Later, Internet research revealed alarming statistics. For instance, Veterans Inc. stated, “More than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S.”  The words, images, and statistics melded into this poem.

Editor’s Note:  As a military veteran and part-time Veterans Administration physician, I have seen all too often the heartbreaking fate of some of America's finest people.  Even sadder, in my part-time work as a prison physician, I have seen many veterans among the inmates.  Perhaps sadder still, as the accompanying illustration demonstrates, the problem appears to be as old as armies themselves.

Illustration Note:  In David's Belisarius Begging for Alms, we see the famous ancient Roman General, Belisarius, begging in the streets.  Recognizing the former commander, a young legionnaire looks on aghast.

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