I meet a boy who carries a notebook in his breast pocket.
“That’s quite a weapon,” I tease, pointing to the blue stain
spreading across his lab coat. He is a man, but so clean-shaven
and slim, he seems young enough to be a child.
High school job, I think, or between classes.
We wait for my pain pills, which the pharmacist measures
so slowly, he could be using coffeespoons.
His lilting accent assures me I will be relieved.
We are close to done, he says, counting pills.
We are far from it.
The man-child says he is two years
past the Navy, where he worked on ships that lined
the suffering shores of the world, witness to the worst
humans could visit on the living.
He tells me his thoughts move faster
than debris in a hurricane, and he gathers them
in the notebook, trying to piece
his life together again. If only he could collect
them all in one place, put a lid on them,
bury them deep, and move on.
Then, he says, he might find sense
in this incomprehensible place.
What is poetry that does not save nations
but souls? The kid mentions that he is a lefty,
able to spot four-leaf clovers in fields of grass and weeds.
He collects them in his wallet.
Life shoots dreams down. To him, I am one more old woman
with pain pills and worry and grey temples and belly fat.
I want to hold his smooth young hand in mine
and tell him how little we know but this:
words, gathered like storm clouds
on a horizon can unleash a torrent
that changes the landscape of this world.
What’s in his mind, he says, he cannot see.
But it is there, and ready.
He did not sail so many seas, he promises,
for his voice to be lost in the wind.
key words: Janice Lynch Schuster, veterans, dreams, writing, creativity, poetry