Poem: The Flashbacks of Lightning

By: Robert S. King


The beard who sucks his thumb
moves every day to a different
cardboard foxhole, never sleeps
in the Shelter, that orphanage
for grown-ups.

The few who’ve known him long
say his younger mouth was always
open, a hollow ring, a silent shout,
the calm before the storm.

Streetmates call him Stormy,
one who storms in, storms off,
who sleeps with a night light
of lightning and remembered rain.

Name-tags still chain his neck,
his rank sewn like a scar on the sleeve.
The only pocket without holes
keeps an old picture of a private
waving to cheers of confetti,
another of a hippie saluting
with a dirty finger, as if to be a man
is to choose which camouflage
to wear, duty deciding to believe
that the flag never hits the ground
nor ever drapes a coffin.

Rags of his jungle coat fly
in a wind never at home.
Sucking on the barrel of his thumb,
his stare seems to follow the distant
thunder, a wandering echo
seeking the voice that made it.


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