Private Grief

He was inducted out of God knows where,

and sent marching up and down the parade grounds


At night, in the barracks, he wept

into the dark of snoring men.

He looked like a fever, or some ragweed touched by sun,

or an elm with dark eyes.

Mail call found him sitting beside the flagpole,

cleaning his fingernails.

If you crossed him, he would cross you back

and mean nothing by it.

Where he went on leave was a secret

having something to do with pinewoods and racing cars.

He had no real appetite

except for potatoes, which he'd always fiercely hated.

The firing range fascinated him,

all that kneeling, all those silent targets.

When we sent him to war, he went without complaint

but came home no hero.

Private Grief, Private Grief, what are we to do with you?
"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies."

Mustered out, he stepped into a barroom brawl,

then stepped back, unsmiling.

Private Grief, Private Grief,
I'll never believe you fought with all your heart.