In mispronouncing your name,
the bailiff diminishes you,
then the Judge’s condescending scowl
smothers your correction.
You stand as the military taught you,
but your bludgeoned body refuses to comply
with orders sent from the mind,
failing so badly to keep secrets allayed.
The facts are in dispute
only because memory cannot
break the post traumatic stress dance
a nimble mind enacts.
Did you wish to die
or wish adrenaline to flood reality
with a spray of red
as the chair busted the first biker’s face?
The prosecutor notes your service,
your stays in the ward,
the porch where you use to sit
and listen to starlings chatter.
As evidence is presented,
you scan the courtroom behind you,
do not recognize a single face
and cannot imagine anyone ever mouthing, I love you.
There is a place in your throat
where all the names of fallen comrades catch
and shape themselves into something white
pressed into something black.
An image that spins. You wish to slow it,
so the blur comes into focus,
but the Judge passes verdict,
while intentionally mispronouncing your name.
You feel the dizzying cloud increase and disorient.
You know what it means to have others tell you
what you are and must be and must do.
You know they are wrong.
copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney
This poem is not about a real incident. It comes into being from my acquaintance with a couple men who served in the war zones US armies occupy and our conversations about the struggles they had adjusting back into peace society and away from war.
One of the men told me how hard it was to change back into his pre-war self.
These conversations took place five or more years ago in bookshops and coffee shops. Those conversations became very real again to me the other day while at my daily writing. A trick of memory and time not being as linear as clocks suggest.