For Cletys

You wouldn’t think

His eyes would shine so bright

Beneath those clouds that fog his sight

But they’ve been aglow since ‘25

You wouldn’t think he would be so kind

For a depression-born, war-worn

Love of mine that is truly blind


He’ll still talk about the war, the jail

The grit twirled twenties and the dirty thirties

The fearful forties and the sacrificial sixties

He rolled through it all like thunder

And though he’s a little battered

He still knows,

The death march, the maggots and the way war goes

It continues behind his eyes

His life as a counter-spy


He’s been knocked down

By everything that’ll drown you

Bullets, women, time

But he eases back up and ambles on

He still knows how to march in a stoic straight line

But he rolls on like that red river

With a soft, sincere smile,

That does not falter

That does not quiver

Through his every trial


They say that cherubs were stalwart warriors

In the virginal army of God

Their sinlessness so stark

Against their glowing cheeks

Pink and scared and marked


The air around him always

Has a warm and golden hue

He's got that miracle feeling

Like those tiny babies squealing

When they’re all soft and new

His innocence is fully retained

Free of sorrow and free of shame

He was never blemished by his strife or pain

And I admire that


His countenance was so pure and fine

And he always called us “kid”

As though he might be some Divine,

Who, in a midwestern pensioner hid

As thought we were all his descendants

And he so showered us with love, transcendent

When he called us all his kindred

He said for us he won his pendant


He came down into his momma’s lap

into plains of Oklahoma

As winter thawed from its frozen nap

As the soil woke from its coma

He was surely some archangel

When he was born that april

And his eyes were hewn from crystal.

When his fate was woven so fearful

But his soul was wrought so peaceful.


He had rekindled my flame

After I struggled to light it again

He taught me to fight through my battles

When I was crying for refrain

When he gifted me

The wisdom of his strife

Against the war-machine

And the trials of his life


“The world is a little cruel

But there's good people out here too

Don’t forget oklahoma,

Don’t let that red soil aroma

Ever leave you.

And Sweetie I know,

You’ve walked through a lot of hell

But you're a good kid,

And I know your heart well.

The punches will keep coming

Like the ones you’ve faced before

But you just keep on truckin’ kid

I know you’ll win your war.”


And may I repeat his story

Of wisdom, honor and battle glory

When I name my son for him

And watch his spirit begin again

May we roll on like muscogee thunder

Whether above or under.


This poem is about: 
My community
My country


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