Old Soldiers

 

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.

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