A Veteran

My father came down not killed
from among others, killers or killed,
for whom he'd worn a uniform,
and he lived a long afterward,
a steady man on the flattest of plains.
I called after him many times, surprised
when I heard the catch in my own voice.
He didn't know how to find the solace
of listening to someone else speak of
what he'd seen and survived.
He himself closed his own
mouth against his own words.
In the wrong sequence, his spirit,
then his mind, and last his body
crossed over that infamous, peat-inky,
metaphorical water that has no far shore.
I think he was carried like a leaf
in currents so gentle that a duckling,
had it been alive, could have braved them,
but too strong for a leaf. And saturated
with minerals that steadily replaced
organic cells, the water turned my father,
an ex-soldier, to leaf-delicate stone inscribed
with the axioms of countless veins.

Reginald Gibbons, "Veteran" from Last Lake.  Copyright © 2016 by Reginald Gibbons.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
Source: Last Lake (The University of Chicago Press, 2016)
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