Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

No veteran shall die alone…
I hear his footsteps
near a focal plane
he looked at a world
through old lenses
tripping with amputee’s
lamentations, eyes bursting
diabetes more than dietary
benign medical diagnosis

he pushed into my life
wheelchair red, hair unkempt
man on a mission
homeless then, institutionalized
the place of my temporary work

he talked of Brazil one day
skirting along Copa Cabana
he shared cachaça
with me and others on Pacific
on my Oregon coast with vets
like a blink of my eye
one year ago

happy, a buoyant time
he gushed about a trip to Europe
during better times, a woman, younger
met in Greece
Austrian student
he talked of re-meeting her

he staked out time
trivial pursuit in this facility
he watched movies
talked it up when
hard documentaries pushed
his limits

hidden deep this former
Army grunt, a broken family
father once a mountaineer
reclusive, hoarding affection
yet time was a bell tolled

Chicago father dead one year
before Danny’s demise
old at 71
stuck in a home
hospice on him like a leech
he passed away unknown
unknowing, trapped in lockdown

memory held by poet
his case worker once
holding the line
as he cycled out
lonely, virtually invalid
life alone sucked
him dry nine months later

memory I hold
his photography career
seen his jazzy images
his big studio
brand spanking new
young in this zeal

memory I galvanize
more dying now
than living, being born
how alone we are
crags of some good times
a continual wanting
of travel, minds glued
to uneven remembrances

Danny Abrego, gone August 17, 2020

another flash in my craggy life
this veteran dead, alone
from sweetness of hope
into the dungeons of isolation

this short-timer
dead, alone, a figment

2 thoughts on “No Veteran Shall Die Alone

  1. Cindy Shirar says:

    Oh my God. PLEASE delete my last bizzarely-pasted comment…



  2. Cindy Shirar says:

    This brought me to tears, Paul Haeder.

    Tears for Danny. Tears for your loss.
    Tears for this country. Tears for our loss…

    But also tears because, while you still draw breath, I can believe in the likes of angels.

    Oh, to be “another flash in your craggy life…”

    Service to—and existence as a subject of—the Shining City on a Hill®™ exacts a price…

    Psyches and bodies twist and contort to absorb the blows and shocks our Dominatrix of Liberty metes out. And in the name of Democracy®™, she demands each strike be taken with a Can-Do, All-American®™ smile—until they can’t.

    Time marches on, and so do the abused bodies and minds. Those falling behind or failing to exhibit the requisite Positive American Attitude®™ find themselves rapidly overtaken and trundled beneath the relentlessly-rolling Wheels of Liberty®™.

    A lifetime of Freedom®™ under Old Glory’s®™ omnipresent, protective, shadow exacts a price…

    Hearts, minds and bodies—long broken, addled and sickened in the desperate Pursuit of Happiness®™ and the American Dream®™—stare across the bleak wasteland of their future. With nothing left to offer God’s Blessed America®™, abandonment and loneliness lie in wait.

    Forgotten by all but the angels.

    Confused, with faculties distorted beyond reach or recognition, and unable to tolerate any more American Exceptionalism®™ force-feedings… it’s time…

    On Behalf of an Ungrateful Nation®™…

    Danny, never a figment: A man. A soldier, a traveler, an artist, a lover, a dreamer—a flawed and gifted, tragic and comic, human being, like each of us, was permitted to die lonely, confused, impoverished and forgotten.

    Except by the angels.

    If someone does for me a fraction of the honor you do Danny Arbrego in “No Veteran Shall Die Alone,” I’ll fade out smiling on the other side, Paul Haeder…

    Oh, to be a “memory held by a poet…”

    On behalf of THIS grateful USAF Gulf & Balkan War-era veteran, Paul: THANK YOU for the tribute and respect you paid to Danny Arbrego.

    Thank you.

    For Danny Arbrego:

    Cynthia Shirar
    Fmr. Sgt., USAF


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