war stories

she cooked for an army because she had one
yours, mine, ours and this bunch had nothing
in common with the bradys

mostly i remember white uniforms,
being paid a quarter to rub wintergreen
on the hot, swollen feet of a nurse
and i could never imagine her dancing

past the faux-wood metal shelf
filled with knick knacks i was forever
in danger of breaking all mingled with
the smell of starch and the best
molasses cookies ever made

i rubbed pink lotion and collected
my coin but back then
i didn’t know all the stories
didn’t know there was more to be told

in the world my mother grew up in
fairy tales lived in a bottle and evil
slept in the corner one eye open

shhhhh, be careful not to wake him be good be good

except good was never good enough
and in the end the deepest scars
smelled like wintergreen and antiseptic

fingers worked to the bone never quite
disguise enough for a flawed heart
not made of gold not made of love
not made of anything but broken

and broken begets broken
fosters heartbreak and failure
and i like to think intentions were good
i like to think survival shouldn’t mean
damaged children but all i know are stories

and all i have are a teapot and a photo
of a hard-working woman who cooked for
an army because that’s what she had

but the soldiers she raised needed so much more
than the purple hearts they received

This poem started out being about my grandmother’s work as a nurse,
and then it took me someplace quite different…
Linking up with the fabulous dVerse poets for Poetics, Workin For It, join us!

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