In Country

The last poem I’ll include here takes place after the return to the farm in Iowa. It is the sixteenth poem in the series. The last poem, “Purple Heart Recipient” appears in the Summer 2012 issue of Stonecoast Lines, the publication of graduating students at Stonecoast MFA program, University of Southern Maine. “In Country” is a term that means in the country where the war is taking place. For many veterans, different sorts of battles ensue upon arriving home, thus “in country” here refers to the first battles Wayne faced on the farm.

In Country

Had a leg when I got out
it was a piece of crap—
the top slid around my stump,
the bottom shank was cracked.

Worked twice as hard as any dog
to prove I was still man;
shoveled manure in the barn
to spread on fields— by hand.

Sent a dozen letters
to a joker in Sioux City
who ran the hole he called
Artificial Limb Company.

At eight a.m. one morning,
I pulled up to his store.
He—already drunk—informed me
(after I pounded on the door

for him to open up)
“Of the letters that I get,
most go in the trash—
I read just one in ten.”

I nearly grabbed that fellow’s
neck. I’m still surprised
I didn’t. At twenty-one,
a guy can be a little wild.

Instead I saw a lawyer,
a decent man I knew;
he got me my new stilt,
free of charge to boot.

Thought I’d be safe awhile
from cracking like my shank,
but my brother returned from service
he’d never left the States.

And my folks bought him
just what I knew they would,
a machine to spread manure,
and I left the farm for good.