Back Then

~Not all of this is true. But pieces of it are, and maybe that’s enough.

Back then I could pump iron for ninety minutes
then go eat three Arby’s beef-n-cheddar sandwiches.
Back then I could do a lot of things.
Last night I was weary and access off the frontage road was easy
so sentiment took over and I pulled in. It had been raining.
The man and wife sat cattycorner from my booth. He wore a
denim jacket with thick sherpa collar, she ate curly fries.
Her attempts to discretely stare were awkward, twice our eyes met.
Then she stood, grabbed her purse and went to the ladies room.
As I rose to leave he did too, approaching me with extended hand.
Bravely he said Please excuse her. Our son, Paul, was killed
in Afghanistan; you’ve got his eyes.
The man walked away meeting her at the door, and out they went.
Back then I would’ve called out to them, maybe even prayed aloud for them.
Back then I could do a lot of things.
Last night I walked to where the wife stood as the man opened her passenger door
and held my arms open to her. She fell into me like a prodigal,
me who before last night she didn’t know from the man in the moon
but in that Arby’s housed the eyes of their stolen son.
The wife looked up and met my tears, stepped back, then patted my chest
like my own mother has done a thousand times.
I drove three more hours, finally succumbing to the neon woo of a Hampton Inn.
I can’t drive all night like I could back then. 

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  1. Teresa Evangeline on October 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Astonishingly beautiful.

  2. Diana Trautwein on October 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Oh God, have mercy. Wrenchingly beautiful, on every level I can think of. Thank you. How do you do this? Capture so many layers of life in less than 30 lines of beauty? Thank you.

    • thebeautifuldue on October 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      Diana, you are welcome…and thank you for the mention on FB!

  3. hisfirefly on October 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    What Diana said….

  4. Ann Kroeker on October 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    John…I know that to be *true* doesn’t mean everything has to be *factual*, but I do wonder what actually took place and what you artistically wove into it.

    • thebeautifuldue on October 6, 2012 at 6:50 pm

      Ann, I would expect as much from one as curious as you…thanks.

  5. Mike Graves on October 6, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    enjoyed a sweet visit with your mom

  6. Katy McKenna on October 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    In wonderful real-life storytelling such as this, sometimes small facts are changed so that great truths are revealed. I love it, John. Thank you…..

  7. Kindred Magazine (@thekindredmag) on October 6, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    lovely, truly lovely.

    • thebeautifuldue on October 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  8. Natasha Metzler on October 7, 2012 at 11:40 am

    achingly beautiful.

  9. patriciaspreng on October 8, 2012 at 3:47 am

    I pat my sons on the chest too… somehow in the patting I long to touch their hearts. So much heart in this John, as usual… what a precious gift you gave to her.

    • thebeautifuldue on October 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Patricia, I like that, longing to touch their hearts…thank you!

  10. sethhaines on October 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    John… ungh…

  11. wendy on October 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Tears in my eyes… you have a wonderful way with words.

  12. lynda smith on October 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    I’ve been very busy the last few weeks and just now catching up with you. I’d write more, but I can’t see for the tears in my eyes! You continue to amaze me!!

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