Tracks of a Wandering Mind

Poetry, stories and random thoughts from a wandering mind.

Bum on a Sidewalk

Written after a discussion with my wife about her brother who went missing in Vietnam.

He was a grizzled old man in a worn army coat,
With dirt covered patches and stripes on both sleeves.
He sat on the sidewalk and was drinking cheap wine,
And watched me from eyes more knowing than mine.

I didn’t have time to give him the time of day
As he looked up at me with something to say.
“You don’t need to run,” he said.“You don’t need to fear.”
“You can just toss a coin and forget I was here.”

I stopped dead in my tracks and my face burned in shame,
For I had a coin in my hand for charity’s name.
He grinned at my look and slowly shook his white head,
“I don’t need it that badly,’ was all that he said.

I don’t know why I stopped and sat down beside him,
But something inside me insisted I listen.
“No one remembers the old places and old names,”
“But we all know well Khe Sahn, Lang Vei and Da Nang.”

“Nobody sees us,” he said “and nobody cares”
“As they toss a few coins and try hard not to stare.”
“They think I’m just lazy, just another old bum,”
“But you know, when it counted most I didn’t run.”

He reached in his coat and pulled out an old case
And opened it slowly, an odd look on his face.
He handed it to me and said with some wonder,
“Look, there’s thirteen stars on a medal of honor.”

He wrapped it and hid it inside of his coat
And he patted my back and said “You can go.”
“I just wanted someone to once stop and hear me,”
“Instead of throwing coins afraid to get near me.”

He’s long gone now there’s an old man in his place,
But I often remember that old soldier’s face,
As I sit and listen to days of past glory,
Because everyone has his own special story.



June 14, 2011 - Posted by | Poetry | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The Vietnam Vets are from a war most would like to forget, or pretend never happened. One never knows what life story you might come across when you lest expect it. Very moving piece!

    Comment by Anonymous | July 10, 2011 | Reply

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