Vern Fein

Fear at My Doorstep

Today I came up to my front door,
Fear lying on the stoop.

He just lay there looking up,
eyes staring at me.

He changed every time I blinked
to make him go away,

which he didn’t, making me
more frantic because I had ice cream

in my grocery bag that would melt
if I didn’t put it in the freezer.

He was a shape shifter
He looked like a worried line

on the brow of my checkbook,
like my oldest daughter

warbling her songs in California
without health insurance,

like my husband’s coming stress test,
wires strung all over the stoop

like clogged arteries,
easy to trip over.

Fear wouldn’t get out of the way,
just lay there shifting.

This might have gone on forever,
the ice cream soaking the bag.

But I stepped over him,
went into the house

shut the door hard on him.
Put down the grocery bags,

the ice cream in the freezer.
Looked at the kitchen clock

saw that it was time
to pick up my grandson from school,

his single-dad father
working late again.

I thought of escaping out the back door,
but went out the front.

Stepped over Fear
and went right on my way.

Memorial Day

I watch my neighbor back out of his driveway.
He told me he is going to his brother’s grave
to honor a fallen hero,
place flowers or a wreath
his wife and kids in tow,
a visit before a picnic and water-skiing.

I did not lose anyone in a war.
I have no death to remember.
My Dad survived the Merchant Marines.
Once he broke a man’s arm who tried to jump him.
My Step-Dad (Pork Chop Hill) and Father-in-Law (Battle of the Bulge)
fought in horrors they would never share.
My Sister-in-Law’s dad medaled in PTSD
before there was a name for it,
head in his hands in the dark,
sitting alone depressed for hours before he died young.

When Memorial Day comes, I ignore it,
avoid the flags, parades, sonorous music,
pierced by the sound of TAPS,
no picnics or water-skiing or golf,
perhaps cut the lawn.

No one I know died in a war.
Maybe that is why I want a different memorial on this day.
Maybe that is why I see the irony,
remembering what never should have happened.
Instead, my heart breaks when I see the rows and rows,
white boxes lined up in Heaven.

Reminds me of what war truly is
and why it is seldom honorable
but a sacrifice made to some unrelenting god
like the animal sacrifices of old,
striving to appease, never ending.

I know I am not supposed to feel that way,
believe instead that our freedom was won,
cling to the Truth like a flag clutched at the graveside,
guns saluting, honor saved.
I know better.

My neighbor cannot know what I believe.
I cannot ever mention it to him.
His brother died, not mine.

***

Vern Fein is a retired teacher, who has published over fifty poems and short pieces on a variety of sites, a few being: *82 Review, The Literary Nest, Bindweed Magazine, Gyroscope Review, VietNam War Poetry, Ibis Head Review, Spindrift, Former People, 500 Miles, and The Write Launch, and has non-fiction pieces in Quail Bell, The Write Place at the Write Time, and Adelaide, plus a short story in the the online magazine Duende from Goddard College.

A Literary Magazine

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