The Man Who Came Back
By J. L. L. Kroll
The man who came back
from the war all wrong
used to belong here. Now he sits
barefoot in the middle of a lawn
with a guitar and wanders
the downtown in dirty clothes, toting
two bags of newspapers. With his long
hair and eyes like traffic lights—
alternating blank and panic-pain—he
is a sore that should be hidden. So your
mother seems to think. “It’s a shame,”
she declares, as if someone slovenly
had left a broken washing machine
on their front porch too long.
Every night, your father listens to
news of the faraway war. But to you,
the barefoot man with the bags
is the only solid evidence that war exists.
He is what you see inside your mind
when any adult around you dares
carelessly to name it.
J. L. L. Kroll’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Faultline, California Quarterly, Cold Mountain Review, and Talking River Review. Kroll’s chapbooks, Ghost Town Girls and Pantheon, are available on Amazon.com and from other online booksellers. J. L. L. Kroll grew up in Wisconsin, and many of her poems are set in crumbling towns and cities of the Upper Midwest. She is currently working on a collection of poems that explore the intersection of corporate greed, environmental degradation, and human illness.