Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Victor Henry- A Poem

She married him a week before he deployed to Vietnam,
On Christmas Day in 1969,
The happiest and saddest occasion in her young life,
A life framed with an unknown future,
Filled with unknown expectations,
Daring beyond the moment,
A kind of hesitant anticipation,
Determined, in the spur of the moment,
To be lived delicately and dangerously.
Loving him since her junior year in high school,
Discovering the epiphany of true love for the first time,
She shared her inner most secrets
With her soul mate girlfriends,
Her monologues a verbal diary.
They envied her, the first of the four
To find the man of their dreams,
A Christian man, a man respected
In their small community,
The quarterback on the varsity team
That led them to a state championship. 
He was her universe, her world, her everything.
A year later he came back from Vietnam
A boy of fifty deeply scarred and depressed.
For the first week he never touched her,
Never held her, never kissed her.
Never spoke a word to her at all.
Late at night, he hid outside in the tool shed
So she wouldn’t see him cry.
His mood swings unbearable.
Followed by violent, emotional outbursts
That startled her, scared her, spooked her into hiding.
Half the time she didn’t know
If she should fly, freeze or fight.
His insomnia became her jungle terrain,
His PTSD her PTSD.
He slept with a pistol and a knife under his pillow.
His nightmares so intense
She had to sleep in a separate bedroom, fearful for her life.
She confided to her mother he’d been living
Multiple roles since he got back.
That something was terribly wrong.
That his anger was tangible.
So tangible she could smell it. Taste it.
That his rage was dark and foreboding,
Vicious and savage. Cruel.
He embarrassed himself amongst their friends
Until they had no friends.
He withdrew a nightmare at a time
Until he didn’t give a fuck anymore.
He sedated himself, day and night, doing drugs of all kinds,
His drinking destructive.
She could see he was annihilating a part of himself.
But he wouldn’t let her in.
She was at a juncture. Should she stay or go.
The wall he had erected
Between them was insurmountable,
A formidable, unconquerable barrier.
One night she came home after a night
Of self-imposed sanctuary with her girlfriends
And found him hanging from a garage rafter,
The noose tight around his neck,
His body lax and loose,
A note near the toppled stool
Saying, It’s better this way.
The moment surreal.
His death, an emotional time bomb
He had planted in her heart,
About to erupt and mushroom.

Bio: Victor Henry's work has appeared in Misfit Magazine, Vietnam War Poetry, Slipstream, The Paterson Review, among others.

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