the burned young man lying flat on his back on the rehab slab in Wiesbaden,
and think, finally, that it is the color of rhubarb, that drab maroon and green,
but seared on, blasted into a mottled, speckled, crystallized sheen.
Rhubarb, meaning a fight or disagreement, the ump getting into it with a player,
their faces turning red, sputtering, blustering, kicking dirt on each other,
until finally someone gets vulgar, says something about the other one’s mother.
Rhubarb, from the ancient word for the Volga River, its watery line of demarcation,
and the barbarians who lived beyond it, the real ones, Vandals, Visigoths, Huns,
not the ones we see now as buffoons in commercials, battle-axing, caterwauling
the civilized world for the right credit card, for Capital One, asking us what’s in
our wallets. CNN says the rehab here is good, so the film crew has come in.
They thank him for his service. They tell him he’s a credit to his country, to all of us,
all our brave young women and men. They ask if he has any hobbies, if he can tell us
what he’d most want to do that he used to enjoy doing. He says he’d like to walk again.
I hate everyone, all of us who have sent him into flames. I hate the film crew, hate CNN, the rehab facility, every tube that goes in and out of him, every monitor that beeps, even the morphine feed that drips and seeps. They ask him if it is frustrating and he weeps.
Source: Poetry (November 2011).
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This poem originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Poetry magazine
Poems by John Hodgen
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