The Corner of Desolation and Waste
Rundown like the toothless gums
of an apple doll left under a tree
last Christmas and missed until
Easter, the Veteran’s Hall stands,
a gray bunker of square brick, some
of the windows blocked off, no sign
of life and no cars outside…the men
who come here to ruminate and
reminisce are the old ones; only
their baseball caps or the odd patch
on a jacket gives you an idea of
what they would talk about –
if the words that populated their
nightmares would come forth to
the living in daylight and heal them.
The only time I saw my grandfather
without his walker was when he
hobbled his way to the counter
to get coffee, probably made during
the very same war he was in, with
powdered creamer that stayed stuck
to the stick like unbrushed teeth.
He’d smile and chat on the way,
methodically turn the black to
skin-colored beige with the focus
of a neurosurgeon, then chat
on the way back, to fall into
his favorite chair, sip and think,
until I helped him home for supper.
I came most days for a while to visit. My
grandfather was always in the same
chair. I never had to scan the sadness
or smell that peculiar smell of old
for very long. And when we’d go home
until tomorrow, we’d think without words
that we both hoped the same men
would be there, because to think
any other way would be so horrible,
you might as well be back in the war.
Tobi Cogswell is a three-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Credits include or are forthcoming in various journals in the US, UK, Sweden and Australia. Her fifth and latest chapbook is Lit Up, (Kindred Spirit Press). She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.sprreview.com).