From the VA

The woman has stopped screaming
Ma…Ma…Ma… across the hall.
He can’t get a break from the sack of gas
that snores behind a shared screen.

The mounted TV just declared
the country’s dead. He’s sick. Throws up
warm water, presses nurse’s buttons,
gets ignored. He flips a tray to the floor,
makes noise someone might notice.

He uses bed controls to sit up straight.
Outside, red and white stripes twist
and waver. A tattered fly end of the flag.

Through caulked window cracks, he listens
to snap hooks clanging on the halyard
against the VA flagpole. High wind, a dust-
cloud, the Commonwealth blue shield,
white field, whips beside Old Glory.

Who hasn’t he told to drop dead? From the metal
of his bed the flags are all half-mast.
He hasn’t seen his children since the snow.

Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, published in 2016 by Indolent Books, and The Unbuttoned Eye, a full-length 2019 collection from 3: A Taos Press. Among other publications, his poetry appears in the American Journal of Poetry, Cortland Review, Massachusetts Review, Rattle, and Tar River Poetry. Robert is poetry editor with Indolent Books and Deputy Director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.