Connor Priest

Long shadows of late autumn follow Connor Priest,

He walks each day along the path by the orchard,

On leave again – this time from rehab,

He trudges by my house each day at four, and he looks,

Neither right nor left, and pays no attention – usually,

To the covey of quail that flush up out of the thick dead grass,

That grows by the fence row along the path by the highway,

He’s too young for this walk – he walks like he must,

Bareheaded, he wears a light blue windbreaker,

In front of cold South Dakota wind,

He keeps his right forearm tucked into the pocket,

It’s his phantom hand (I’d later find out) – the one he’d lost,

In a faceless blast on the other side of the planet,

His left hand, the one that’s left, is exposed and bare,

Left hand holds a smoke and it looks cold and alone.

I call out to him – from the porch where I go to write,

In the afternoon when the sun is out – I have green tea, and a pipe,

So I ask if he would like to come over – to warm himself,

He waves with his good smoking hand and shakes his head,

One day, I ask again and Connor Priest crosses the blacktop highway,

That separates the orchard and the path from my writing porch,

We smoke and talk as the sky mellows with color over the trees,

He shows me the stump and he tells me about the bomb,

He saw the white flash but didn’t feel anything, nor hear anything,

He tells me he is deaf in one ear, and then he asks me what I write about,

Foolish things I tell him. We smoke until it is late and he has to go back,

A fingernail moon pushes up over Yankton. Connor Priest disappears,

Into early evening shadows that force themselves upon the old apple trees,

On the other side of the blacktop highway.


Ed’s Note:  This poem has appeared in several places since I wrote it back in 2008, so I apologize if you have already read it. I run it here, on Veteran’s Day, in honor of the men and women who have served our country in the U.S. Armed Forces. For the record, Connor Priest is a real person. The name, Connor Priest, like the names of all actual people in everything that I write, is fictitious.