The People There

A smile for your witty joke, a ‘thank you’ for your praise,

I can keep this sick act up, could fool you all for days.

My bathroom mirror barks a laugh, my dresser rolls its eyes.

Because they know what you don’t know: my smile is my disguise.

I promised to come back someday, it’s a promise I regret.

This place may be a Romeo but I’m no Juliette.

Utopia is not for me, ‘idyllic’ and I clash

Once a golden phoenix, now I’ve been reduced to ash.

Will I rise or will I fall? It’s much too soon to tell.

My mind’s a Pennywise circus, and I’m off the carousel.

If you knew me before war tore up my good ideals,

That girl’s now buried six feet under a wound that never heals.

I thought war would be black and white, no room for any gray,

But I was wrong, and now I know, war has no sobriquet.

Because no sane man or woman and certainly no child,

Would say fighting ever gets you anything but reviled

I spent three full years training for that one year out at war,

Where Death and I became close friends, both then and evermore.

And though I’m always grateful for the lessons learned that year,

Those lessons came at a steep price: near constant, long-term fear.

I saw and heard and felt too much, I wish I could forget,

Now my photographic memory is something I regret

The nightmares come each and every time my eyes give in to sleep,

They’re not welcome, they’re not desired, and yet they’re mine to keep

But if you asked me this today, ‘Would you do it all again?’

I wouldn’t even hesitate, ‘Where do I sign? Give me a pen.’

‘Cayse the best I learned had nothing at all to do with fighting wars,

Instead I learned what all humans are deep down inside our cores.

Every human’s born with an innate sense of right,

They know deep down the difference between the dark and light.

No matter where you choose to go, all around the world,

You’ll find amazing people, like an oyster to a pearl.

I found no less, and maybe more, in Afghanistan’s northeast,

The people there were the brightest light in the darkest, blackest beast

They hadn’t much and what they had was taken more than not,

By force, by price, by threats, or dice; by what the enemy sought

But their love was pure, their hearts were gold, their dreams ubiquitous,

Not cold or callous, mean, or dark, and definitely not covetous.

They cared like me, and hoped the same, their compassion was all too real,

They just found themselves in a Hellish maze, being always forced to kneel.

I wish I could have been more help, I wish it all the time,

For they helped me know a world beyond my former paradigm.

So even with the nightmares, pain, and every cancer scare,

I’d go back time and time again, to meet the people there.

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