Worn brown slippers pause their shuffle
as he peers past his weathered reflection
to a face forever stilled
in a smile of sweet affection.
Her teasing laugh plays through his mind
like a well-loved vinyl record,
clouded with static and scratches,
but for that, no less adored.
Faded carpet leads to a breakfast nook,
set with a single chair
against lightly patterned linoleum cracked
with the rigors of time and wear.
Habit has him reaching for oatmeal
that he sweetens just a smidgeon
with brown sugar even though the truth is
that taste is yet another lost religion.
Twisting the knob on the radio,
just to break the silence that bears weight,
he rubs blacking with a repurposed rag,
then suit and shoes are donned, tugged straight.
Stepping from the car, he nods and shakes hands
with reflexive courtesy born of age,
and plays his part with the unwelcome polish
of repetition on a tragic stage.
The bugle’s melancholic notes pierce
a weary heart, but men are stoic
and do not weep, do not show fear,
do not shame medals that claim heroic.
Back home, he removes the poppy
and replaces the medals with respect and care,
and sits down to another meal for one
in his solitary kitchen chair.
Memories play to a soundtrack
of the drone of an engine and the crack of guns,
and he refuses to feel self-pity
for he was one of the lucky ones.