The Search for Young Years Lost

The Search for Young Years Lost

The old man’s combat boots soles
echo the sound of drums,
the taste of ramen lines his gums;
over mountain drool streams
he trudges,
uphill, into forest’s belly
he hobbles;
battle wounds never healed,
muscles scream
like those goddamned warplanes
in his dreams.

Phantom pains below the shoulder
where the rifle butt butted;
he climbs over a boulder—
a cramp in the neck
where the rifle strap gnawed—
looks down at the rising steam
over the onsen, blue,
“Lord!”
where young soldiers once frolicked
without a care in the world,
without a clue;
his crooked smile’s melancholic.

Breathing hard, he reaches the clearing
just after lunch;
walks around the shallow grave
where they buried the boy
(he couldn’t be sure, but he had a hunch),
lied down on his back
and looked up at the sky,
ominous now,
the clouds a darker shade of black.
When the rain comes down
in dirty Perspex sheets,
he shuts his eyes and starts to cry;
forgiveness comes from beneath
in the form of young bones
that squeal,
squeak,
creak.

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