Johnson Wiley is a former Marine now studying at Rutgers. I heard him read last week at Pete’s Candy Shop in Brooklyn, NY, and asked him to send me one or two poems. He did, and here they are. In his email to me, Wiley wrote, “After the reading I was able to speak with another veteran who told me that he related very much to my poetry, and I hope that anyone else, and any other vets and service men and women who read it will also get something from it.”
“Shooting Stars of Kuwait”
In less than a second you pass overhead.
Sometimes alone, other times in pairs,
Playing a cosmic game of follow-the-glowing-leader.
Is it your ability to avoid petty human affairs
That allows you to fly so carefree?
Your radiance against the darkness
Erodes my sense of pride
Like a sand hill in a windstorm.
You and I were not given a choice of where to live.
I, on the life-giving, blue-green marble of Earth;
You, in the unforgiving, vacuum of space.
Yet, somehow, I think you got the better deal.
An unforeseen conflict broke my
Made-in-the-USA glass bubble,
And brought me here, to witness your stellar travels.
And though I know that my terrestrial rounds can’t reach you,
It is for you that I must take aim.
Will you come back tomorrow?
“A Mother’s Son Returned”
“You lost your smile,” she says.
And what was she supposed to say,
When the traces of the child she waved goodbye to
Were expected to be present in the young man who returned?
Physically the same, but…emotionally inaccessible.
The keys to my mental vault I keep hidden,
Locked away in a place so deep even I don’t have access to them.
“Do you ever smile anymore?” she asks with a quiver in her voice.
But, how can a man smile when he no longer finds humor in the world?
You know so little about me.
Yet, you know me more than anyone else.
She’s still looking for the child she remembers the last time she saw me.
“Can’t you hear me talking to you?” she asks.
I can’t be who I was before I left.
Not for you, not even for me.
Thanks, Johnson, and please keep on writing.
More about mothers and the contemporary wars here. More thoughts on the Marines here.