For Harry (My College Room-mate who Died)

by Ivan Donn Carswell

He cut his hand and it bled, the flesh
inside was red and the hurt discounted the flood
of red and vibrant blood that pulsed
from the wound. But he was a warrior,
a son whose mien would not countenance the pain
and he bound the wound in strips of flax
and stalked from the field of death
with disdain.

When he returned from the dead he said
he cut himself hunting pigs with a bayonet.
I remember the way he said it,
the bandaged hand borne nonchalantly,
a shy smile, an unambiguous admission,
but he was scared more than I knew
and he dared I should know
for I learned, and we made amends
for his sore, disabled hand.
I wrote for him as I couldn’t read the words
he penned to tell our teachers what he knew,
and thus I learned a new Harry.

When I wrote the first poem he said
it was too much for such triviality,
the death was metaphorical, after all.
Time passed quickly as it does
and our meetings were rare,
and then I was told he had died.
I cried, I was ashamed I never spoke
with him and his beloved fiancée,
telling that I cared and I shared their pain.
Now forty years on I am writing again,
but Harry, poor Harry, is dead.
© I.D. Carswell

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