Poetry,  Special Issue

The Soldier by James Piatt

The pale, lonely man exists in a patchwork put
together-life, his parts held together with
Elmer’s glue, and bailing wire. His soul… 
dark brown like Bourbon and Coca Cola; he is
a conglomeration of misplaced desires,
fantasies, and sounds of gaudy birds
screeching stridently inside his tortured mind.
He shuffles through life on splintered
expectations attached to burned-out longings
hiding inside camouflaged realities. He sidles 
his way through his painful hours like a snail
skating on shattered glass, leaving a path of
slimy crimson illogicalities. He travels through
his life pushing a rusted grocery cart filled with
lost hopes, aluminum cans, broken whiskey
bottles and dirty rags. He sits on cement seats
along the mall, staring at those passing by who
stare back at him wondering why his is sitting
on their taxpayer benches. He is no longer
seen as an authentic human being, just a 
worthless bum, a result of his own misplaced
decisions, and lethargic behavior. Yet, inside
the tattered camouflaged clothes, lives a
warrior of the war, a war that displaced his
soul, curled around his mind, and took some of
his limbs for hostage.   

Why were so many lives lost in battles and on
city streets, in what only fools believed to be a 
winnable war? Sandy graves and soiled city
alleys contain the ashes of the un-winnable
wars; the cracked hot asphalt streets hold the
remnants of those who didn’t make it back in
one piece. On Veteran’s day, we watch gaudy 
parades with dancing girls and blaring bands,
people dressed in red, white, and blue
drumming the strident notes of America’s
power as they smile and throw candy to
children who do not know any better.
Dignitaries of minor importance, and major
egos sit proudly in luxury cars throwing out
grins to the populace sitting in beach chairs on
the side of the road, seemingly oblivious to the
homeless man, the tragic warrior with only one
leg and shades of crimson hopelessness
standing with his back against a wall, with hat
in hand, and tears in his eyes. Even the
Generals proudly riding in ruby red convertibles
who sent the man to an un-winnable war fail to
acknowledge his existence. He and his
companions were just so much cannon fodder for
winless wars and absurd battles, outfitted
by wealthy corporations who deal in death, and
a populace with a log on its shoulder.

*Previously published in Garbanzo Literary Journal


Dr. James Piatt, a retired professor and octogenarian, has had four collections of poetry, “The Silent Pond,” (2012), “Ancient Rhythms,” (2014), “Light” (2016), and “Solace Between the Lines,” (2019), over 1,345 poems, four novels, and 35 short stories published. His poems have been nominated multiple times for pushcart and best of web awards. He earned his BS and MA from California State Polytechnic University, and his doctorate from BYU.

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