Battle Scars

–by Derek Alan Wilkinson

You don’t hang out with your friends
because they’re fun.
Even if you do enjoy it,
that’s not why you’re there.
Nor they.

Maybe there are people
who you just have fun with.
But they’re not your friends:
they’re just acquaintances.
Just fucking strangers
on the street.

You can tell your real friends
from these strangers you meet
because you can recognize
their battle scars.
You can see the suffering
in their faces:
Sullen eyes and shrunken hearts.
You can feel the shrapnel
in their gut
like it was your own.

They don’t have to talk about
their pain,
their struggle,
or their life.
Nor do you,
because you already know it.
And so do they.
You can feel their misery,
and they can feel yours.

Like they’re always there
even when they’re not.

If you do talk about your pain,
you don’t say much
because you know,
deep down,
that you don’t have to.
They know, and they always will:
without any explanation at all.

And you know.
And that’s that:
that’s all there is to it.

Decades will pass,
and you will see their torment:
over and over, again.
Their agony will surface
in the most subtle of ways.
In a silent facial expression.
In an underhanded comment.
In a body gesture that seems
so out of place:
like a breeze floating over
an otherwise empty room.

For the times that you enjoy together,
you will have suffered apart.
And your friends will see it in you,
and you’ll see it in them, too.
But none of your friends has to say much
about the war–the struggle,
or about life,
about children,
or about death.

Because you seek it in them
and they see it in you.

So, smile you fucking assholes:
I just wrote a poem about you.
I just wish that you were here,
sometimes,
when you’re not.

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