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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Norm Wotherspoon
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The sergeant came to me again last night
And seized my dreams.
I woke, yes, yet again I woke, at ten past three;
Recalling murder in a land I cannot leave.

The Armalite came down within an inch
Of the wounded head of the Viet Cong
As he lay gasping on the ground.

‘They killed three of our mates last night’, the sergeant said,
And wreaked his vengeance with a single shot.
I had not seen … anything like this before, in peace, or war.
The skull split like an eggshell.

I know his name – I know the sergeant’s name.
I do not know his name – I do not want
To know the sergeant’s name.

You lay beside me, keeper of my flame of fragile sanity,
Soft and silent in your dreaming.
I wanted, oh, so desperately wanted
To reach out, to touch you, wake you,
To have you hold me while I cried.
As you have done for me, whilst I wept, in silence, or aloud.

But I would not, could not wake you,
And I don’t know why. Perhaps,
Because I want to stand alone, and tall, and handle this alone.
Or perhaps, because I need you as a last resort.

And so, I lay awake
Beside you in the darkness;
And lived again that jumbled past
Of pain and death and fear and loneliness and longing.

Among the vivid images and memories
Were these, which come back nightly with the sergeant,
To destroy my sleeping,
And to haunt my waking hours ahead.

I walk the high wire in the high winds,
Knowing well that I have fallen down before.
But all those other times, the ground was never very far away.
And sometimes, I was guarded by a safety net. Not here. Not now.
There is no net; I cannot see the ground.
The pit below seems bottomless,
And I have no pole for balance anymore.

Quick Escape