The only thing left is the jacket.
Olive drab and getting drabber.
Fading in passage of time,
Not in sunlight. Secrets safe in the cool shelter of closet.
Hanging still and without purpose,
Holding memories of the 68’and 69’ tours of duty.
The chest and arm patches frayed and peeling
Like most of our past conversations.
Black cat patch covering his 20 year old ghost heart.
The all caps last name spread across the right side of his chest.
I watch it hanging in my closet, clothing its own skeletons,
Saying my father’s name over and over to me in a whisper.
Green thread echoes colors of fevered foreign jungle.
What color are my father’s memories of the days
Before lines stretched across his face like tripwires between tropical trees?
His army jacket tells me stories,
It smells like years burned to the ground like brushfire.
Smells like the 60’s and charred palm leaves. Napalm. Agent Orange.
The kind that kill, not the kind you read for fun and relaxation.
It smells like crisp, dry-cleaned government suits,
A nation of poor men’s futures stuffed inside the breast pocket
Like a decorative handkerchief.
It smells like something I’ve had the great fortune to never have smelled before.
The jacket should be in my father’s bedroom closet.
Why did I steal it back in my late teens or early 20’s?
Did I want to see the threads of my family’s history
Hanging there as cozy and well-fitting as my jeans and T-shirts?
Did I want the option of trying on my father’s years for size,
To see if they were comfortable enough to own?
Or did I want to identify with a man
Whose life and lessons I understood as little as the war he fought?
A man who knew so many of the world’s secrets
Before I knew I had a name.
To hold a piece of history I will never live
Between forefinger and thumb,
Feeling the delicate thread of the years when
I wasn’t here to see him reach stateside,
cool prairie air calling him home
to my mother waiting on the farm,
Just in time to plant the fields
With something he hoped would grow
Tall and bright and full of life in
Midwestern fertile soil.
Bret Hoveskeland is a writer and editor living in Orlando, Florida. He is an active member of the local literary scene. His publications include a collection of poetry titled The Oxytocin Opera, previous poetry/fiction in Dark Matter, Literary Juice, Red Weather, Definitely Magazine, and articles for West Orlando News Online.
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