Legs suddenly like jars of lit fire
in a dark mountain pass, the ear hears
the shouts of soldiers as the mountains
become men with guns in the stains
of shadows between rocks, shouts of
“RPG” just colorless vibrations my ear
still hears, but the light a red flash
of surprise my mind still sees as I wake
to the smell of sweat on a pillow,
look down again at my legs like jars
of lit gasoline I can’t shake off, or walk
out of, and coming awake, I remember
the smell of razor-burning pain.
After the surgeries from that blast
that cleft my right foot and scarred
my legs, gave me the cripple walk
I want to keep to myself, I stay
in the rooms of my house, sit, alone.
When my wife talks it’s lonely too,
a voice like the foreign song of geese
in the sky, the sound of passing by,
leaving. But then she puts the paper
on the table where I sit, turned back
to the Veterans Day bicycle race
promo, leaves it there for days like
it’s nailed to the tabletop, and suddenly
I get up, get the bike from the garage.
On a crisp November morning I move
into a rush of breeze, my legs ache like
pushing into barbed wire, but each
barb glistens in the sun as I say
with every crank of a pedal, “This
is what I am, that is what I was,”
my wife smiling and waving the small
wooden stick of an American flag
so close on the sideline, me laughing,
muscling through the flow of cyclists.
Steven Croft, an Army veteran, lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia on a property lush with vegetation. His work has appeared in Willawaw Journal, Sky Island Journal, So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Third Wednesday, Red Eft Review, San Pedro River Review, Poets Reading the News, Gyroscope Review, and other places.