Robin Amy Bass

CALLOW: THERE ARE NO INNOCENT MEN

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: Saturday May 7, 2005
Awarded: Saturday May 7, 2005
I never thought of you as “Callow”
not even in our youth.
Of course, I knew you were not shallow
but still you hid the truth.

And so I thought you just were angry
when you would get that look;
and when you’d stare at the ceiling
I guess I just mistook

your distant gaze and sullen silence
as clues I could not read.
I listened to your labored breathing
and thought, “What does he need?”

to make him sleep in peaceful slumber
and smile when he awakes;
this angry man with all this sadness
I wonder what it takes

to get this man to say I love you
and spell it L – O – V – E.
I guess it’s me you could call callow
but I just could not see

the secret that you hid deep inside
from me, the world, and you.
Though hindsight’s always 20-20
I now know what is true

The boy you hid for self-protection,
that callow, hopeful soul
was ostracized, and violated
by cowards, as they stole

your hopes, dreams, and innocence
from you, and yes, from me
and though I love, you head to toe
your other part – I see.

The part you had to put away
in haste, it just was crushed;
replaced by jaded barricades.
It all seems so unjust

And though it’s ancient history,
the time they stole from me,
it’s not just you who paid the price.
I hate your PTSD

and all the ones who put it there.
And yes, I must admit
that if I could, I’d decimate
the ones who chose to spit

at you and at your brothers too,
though you’re my chief concern.
Oh yes, I’ve had my secrets too.
You’d be surprised to learn

how, when I read your diary
and learned you’d been to war,
that everything fell in to place
as I fell on the floor

and banged the planks with all my might
to make sure I was awake.
I read it over many times
so there was no mistake.

I never thought of you as shy
or callow, as a youth;
they took away your innocence -
replaced it with the truth.

And when I read your diary…
so unprepared to find…
it took away my innocence
“I damn near lost my mind”
“I damn near lost my mind”

But you just light a cigarette
and say “Hey join the club.”
“Can I rewind the funny parts?”
You say, “Ah there’s the rub!”

Now, when we go to sleep at night
and we share the same bed,
your hand comes searching to find mine
though there are times, you’ve said,

“I just can’t seem to turn it off -
my brain is always on.”

And sometimes though you’re lying there
I know that you are gone

back to the jungle heat of Nam.
The chill that just won’t die
and you’ve become that callow boy -
the one who still can cry

though you try fast to shake it off.
You ask to see your men.
“If I can see them, I might rest,
When can I see them… when?”

And then you turn in your half-sleep,
“Do you know who I am?”
“Of course I do, your name is T
and you’re the only man

I’ve loved the way that I love you.”
I’ll tell you what I see:
the callow man-child that you are
is lying next to me

and neither of us innocent
or bystanders to pain.
Still, I’ll accept the irony -
this YOU and ME thing again.

The years have played some tricks on us;
some kind, and some not so.
But I will tell you one more thing
and this comes from my soul.

I think we are too much alike to
ever be apart.
You gave me what I wanted most.
At last, you shared your heart

Submitted for the May 2005 IWVPA Club Theme Project, “Callow