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.