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Page 15
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<< 14. The Democratic Convention: 197216. The Light at the Tip of the Candle >>

The Man in the Uniform (poem)

By Woody Powell

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I saw a man, in a uniform
worn like skin, molded
trim and significant
with colored patches,
bits of brass, chevrons, bars
an accounting, I thought,
of courage and skill,
a story of to hell and back
silently spoken
into my cradle of uncertainty
bending me like a green stick
toward the siren song of
Duty, Honor, Country;
talismanic words irrefutable
the common shield
behind which I marched
with others
into the mystery of war.
I am a man
without a uniform
without significance
without a shield
and all too aware

of what I might have been: A spirit lost
drained away
into the pores of the earth;

A spirit shattered
all there
but re-assembled badly;

A spirit draped
in the crimson robe of shame
endlessly asking, "How could I have?"

A spirit swollen, diseased,
infected by Colt, Browning and Boeing,
with the awesome power of death;

A spirit offended
looking for someone to blame;

Or, as it was,
a spirit confused,
wearing out of date clothes
looking for shelter
in a job, a family, a bottle
or just a space where I need not think.

—Woody Powell

<< 14. The Democratic Convention: 197216. The Light at the Tip of the Candle >>