Uncle Tom

on summer days
my uncle made
matchstick and paper boats
to float
on breezy bird bath currents
he was always smiling
but he wandered away
into the gloom
of the shuttered house
into darkness
where i overheard his story
told to my father
in faltering words
of shells
and bullets
and mud
and fear
and rotting feet
and friends
like rung out washing
dying on the wire
i saw an old man
tears rolling down
a deep lined face


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