Veterans Administration Waltz

By Bob Bragg

Appointment time 10 AM, Be 15 minutes early said the crumpled post card received months back,
I look into the glass and through to the line ahead, filled with all heights, mainly male,
Old and young, some as fresh as last years high school graduation,
Some with dust inches thick billowing around their cloaks and hats,
Cloaks and hats – some with Unit ID’s, some with conflict names, others with pins and medals
Of yesteryear where many a forgotten Warrior warred and lived and died. Shuffling endlessly forward.

A kiosk replaced the secretaries dead pan stare at the desk behind the glass shields that keep them from caring,
touching, smiling, being a party to the pain that flows down the red lines in the hallways
Take the number, wait your turn, I look through the tinted glass of my Ray Ban Aviators
Evaluating, contemplating if and when I might mumble to another who is there for medical care
Earned at the point of no return in the land of never, never.

The clerk says, “come in” and a pale skinny man with a VA badge says “why are you here?”,
He has the computer screen – he knows the history since my discharge from creased uniforms and bright ribbons and sunlight
as I sit amongst those waiting to die again and again. I need a refill, a pill, a smile, a kind word, I need to feel
apart of something again not apart from it like I’ve felt since the day I took the uniform off.
Why am I here?, I have asked myself in the dark of the night so many times, “Why am I here?”

Finally many questions down the line, the pale fingers dance across the keyboard of my life and he says, “your service connected!”,
“No Shit Sherlock”, the words flow out as if programmed from before and I cannot stop the vomit of my heart,
He turns a bit red and says, “your prescription is waiting at the pharmacy,” to which I mumble,
“Thanks”. Thanks for the care, but especially for the time amongst those who feel as I do,
who walk the halls, following the lines, doing the Veterans Administration Waltz with tombstones in their eyes,
with stares that pierce each other and beyond.

Sitting across the desk from the red haired woman who smells like sausage I receive the brown paper bag of pills,
feeling like a wino with my short dog in a bag, I stumble from the butcher shop smells, down the hall to the final destination,
Our tax dollars at work, ID card, last four of your social please, the words repeated daily a thousand times without feeling
Without caring, without heart. Hurry up and wait, oppressive walls begin to shrink in
as I sit in the crowded chairs of a hallway full of old and young.

I stand in the last line of the day to receive my travel compensation, since they do not pick up bodies where I live,
They do not have a bus with cadavers like me, riding along, looking out at the fields with blank eyes for endless hours,
I take the money without a thought, I don’t count it, I shove it deep in my pocket and move off shuffling along with others
climbing back in my car to leave this place of horror behind—

I will miss this place with all my heart and mind and soul, to be back amongst those who spoke my language,
who shared my dreams and fears and disappointments, who live as I with the death of others in their hearts,
the pride of service and a country who has failed them miserably.

“We serve those who served”, said the sign as I turn down the street and back into the endless world who doesn’t, can’t,
and never will understand.

Waltzing away again.

Categories: Issue 4, Poetry | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Veterans Administration Waltz

  1. Cork

    a part/apart
    a Franz Kafka dance/nice work

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