after the painting Starless Night, by Charles Garabedian
No myth, that soldier on bent knee
weeping over his dead friend, exposed,
camouflage uniforms ironic
without a growing thing in sight.
It could be any soldier, any war.
A Vietnam vet once told me
on such a starless night he bent down
to tie his boot lace come loose.
His battalion all around him, their weapons down.,
suddenly a grenade shred their cocoon.
When he sat up, his comrades lay in a halo
of flame at his feet.
Socorro, he cried, help!
None came, not then, not now.
Myth has its moments of grace.
From the pool of Ajax’s blood, a hyacinth sprang
in royal glory. And on the sword shaped leaves
the first letters of Ajax’s name “Ai”
Once home, the vet at any sudden sound,
struck at phantoms shouting Socorro
in his dark and empty room,
no purple heart or flower to bear his name,
no camouflage for that night
still burning in his brain.