With Stephen to an Inside Place I finally figured out you were living in the alley. You were up at daylight and gone before I got up. It hurt me to see that you had to use a walker to get around—to go more than three or four steps. It was far into winter when I got to know you and found out you were a veteran. Your story told me that the boy from the Pennsylvania woods was trained to stand in harm’s way for the puppet masters, for the Hydra of uber-wealthy who are thieves by any other name. For them war is only a means to an end. Men like Stephen are used. They are used up and thrown away. You were the 1958-made fragile Christmas ornament run over by a half-track. You were left to put the thousand thin glass pieces back together. You had a stroke that crippled you. Your body clenched. I have felt your frozen hands when you slept outside on concrete in the blanket bag in the snow on top of cardboard. Today I took you to an inside place. Sleep, Stephen, sleep in your bed. Let the shards come back together as you dream. Let the beloved boy come back, and we’ll have coffee again.
About the Author: Tom Gengler was born and raised in Oklahoma. His degrees are in classics/philosophy (undergraduate) and theology (graduate). Among his favorite poets are Seamus Heaney, Thom Gunn, Lyn Lifshin, Marge Piercy, Charles Bukowski, Annabelle Moseley, Simon Perchik and Timothy Steele. He has had poetry published in Progenitor, Blue Collar Review, Exit 13, and The Worcester Review. His poems are forthcoming in ONE ART, Streetlight, and Westview.
Image Credit: Helene Schjerfbeck “The Door” (1884) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee