***** A Soldier’s Neighborhood
I heard you came home the other day
to a country that doesn’t greet,
and now you can’t make a living;
you’re reduced to begging on the street.
Your Mom called; I offered to do what I could,
cancelled a day’s work to come your way
before beginning my travel, after “Mom”
told me for employment you’d pray.
As I walked the steps to “Mom’s” door,
I looked over the old neighborhood and
had a cold fear that those dreams
soldiers many times have, had left their marks
on a soul I was beginning to fear
may never recover, as “Mom” said.
Where on earth could she be now?
Was the day just getting too heavy?
My second knock went unanswered, too.
I’d use the key from the planter; better.
A quick look around inside told me
no one was about; but I saw the letter.
It said “Mom” and stood upright on the mantel.
I suddenly thought of our childhood,
when our single moms so often had to meet.
Your mother ever staunchly withstood.
Mine would deliver a searing speech,
screaming,”What are the rules, you two?”
She’d glare us all down, into us rip,
“The street’s not the place to play!”
but my mother never won the war of words.
She’d jerk me to our door across the street
and exclaim to the listening neighborhood
I’d play no more with “that lady’s son”.
The next day, we’d start it all again,
snickering between ourselves as friends.
My mother said we’d never be smart, but
yours, our “Mom”, never predicted such ends.
I went to college while you chose war.
We drifted apart, made new lives and friends.
I wrote to you without receiving answers, but
the neighborhood days didn’t entirely end.
I had wondered every day if you were safe,
recalled your braggadocio and your strength.
But were the frightening nights hot, or cold?
And did the raining bombs make you shake
with fear you endured? I’d never know.
And my wife died without your knowledge.
The Army became your final home, and
I remarried, gratefully gained two sons.
My mother died while yours flourished,
so I came to her, our “Mom”, when she
called and said you’d been wounded and you
were anxious; she worried you’d flee.
The neighborhood looks the same today,
except for the house I left years ago.
At the opposite curb, your house is empty.
You’re missing in the neighborhood flow.
Poem and photos from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg