When some old combat soldiers
tell me over beers how they got to be
what people called heroes,
they seem embarrassed,
saying they only did what their buddies
would do-–even the dead ones.
Then they put on sad faces,
like pinning on their medals.

One whispered his sorrow that
the real heroes died and he didn’t.
Moving closer, he rasped that courage
might really be what the guys had who,
when the shit went down,
turned in the wrong or right direction
(it didn’t matter, he said)
and were lucky enough to make it out.

For whatever reason, I thought of
the old soldier the other day–his claim
that what people who weren’t there
think is courage might just be so much wind.
Right there in front of me,
a swirling, breeze-blown potato chip bag
chased two squirrels
up a tree.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2015, poem, Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

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