Old soldiers never die. Harvey
Milk drowns with his lips around
a spigot protruding from the
blood cask known as City Hall.
My sea monkeys died in their
jar on the window sill before I
could figure out what they were
(certainly not what their package
depicted). Old soldiers grow thin
as medals on watery blood
rations. I gather Queen Anne’s
lace from the property line. This
Eurasian exile dies in a vase in
my bathroom — dries and
darkens like self recriminations.
Old soldiers drown but don’t call
it dying. To civilians it looks and
sounds like a way of singing
patriotic songs understood only
by the militant. If the perennial
Anita Bryant drowns, she’ll want
a pool of orange juice and Coca-
Cola. I loop the song sung
by Vaughan Monroe. All night
I hope for longing. Douglas
MacArthur marinates in bile,
then dines on himself, liver first.
Armies of living lace will
camp on every roadside till the
world is through with war.
Old soldiers grow thin as models.
They are all around me — my
uncles, my husband’s father and
uncles. I never ask them about
their wars, fearing I’ll fall in love
and my pacifism will fade away.
Old romantics never die, but
their moral compasses do.
Gay soldiers never die unless
some bullet or IED or flame
thrower asks them to kindly
stop pushing and stand still.
Timothy Robbins has been teaching English as a Second Language for 28 years. He has been a regular contributor to Hanging Loose since 1978. His poems have appeared in Main Street Rag, Off The Coast, Bayou Magazine, Slant, Tipton Review, Cholla Needles and many others. He has published three volumes of poetry: Three New Poets (Hanging Loose Press), Denny’s Arbor Vitae (Adelaide Books) and Carrying Bodies (Main Street Rag Press). He lives in Wisconsin with his husband of 21 years.