The Man in Patterson Park

The man’s gnarled hands
fingered his coat collar absentmindedly
and pulled it close to block
the relentless cold March wind
his back curled over slightly
and what had been immaculate posture
fell to gravity and weight of years.

Secrets loves wars won and lost
the battles that were never his to
fight and die for. He, without regret, considered
himself dead since his return
thirty-seven years ago.

The park bench dug into his jeans
with splinters. The man dug his hands
into a snack bag of Cheetos, lightly
devouring and sucking off the cheese
from his fingers. Across the way
a squirrel tenaciously nibbled a nut
and the whole of the park groaned beneath
another gust of March wind.

Satisfied momentarily, he lifted his head, back
still bent. Dogs, babies, people all
were walking by, trees heavy with blossoms
drooped towards the ground, and
ducks circled aimlessly in the man-made pond.

Above them all on Hamstead Hill
the pagoda glimmered with a light that
seemed to shine from the inside. With
respect, Union ghosts let the man
disappear into the park bench with
a contented sigh.

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