War and History Poetry posted March 19, 2014

This work has reached the exceptional level
Homeless Veteran

Cold Metal

by Marillion

Cold Metal

The passersby, oblivious to him, 
rush home to be with families and fires
as he observes the light of Friday dim,
then fade into the frigid shade of night.
He watches bustling crowds — the grocery buyers, 
executives convening for a bite— 

and he remembers doing much the same
before he lost his wife and child and trade,
a grunt the Army trained to kill and maim,
but one who sits now in a hopeless trance,
a coffee can in hand, requesting aid,
but thinking of a bloody beach in France.

He watched Lieutenant Murphy sink and drown;
watched Sergeant Hart dismantle, blown apart; 
saw hundreds fall as Germans gunned them down;
felt all the shrapnel cuts the salt would sting;
and thought of how the air, when they would dart
to cover, rang with metal’s hiss-and-ping. 

The coins that drop now in his coffee can 
are like the orchestra of ricochets
around him on that beach, where every man
expected he would be the next to die.
He had survived, though, to complete his days
collecting coins — and scorn — from passersby.


ABACBC rhyme scheme, in iambic pentameter.

My great uncle, a veteran of D-Day, used to tell me about some of his brothers-in-arms who were never the same after Omaha Beach, and one in particular who ended up homeless and half-mad from the things he saw that day. That's what inspired this one. It was brought on by something as simple as seeing his old canteen on my mantle.
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