I put distance between us, not goodbye
a landline still ran between our positions
or a radio on the sill your voice static and gravel
between your battles and my insurgency
we had little common ground

once you fell, the stubbornness of your spine
pinned you to the Earth. I failed to lift you
for all my adulthood I was in that moment only man
a boy the world looks on

not stilled, time had been charting
your weakness, the raids coordinated
the objective shifted, not your spine as anticipated
but the nerves running through your face
devastation creased your countenance
even stoicism became hurt

you grew your goatee its curling tufts a field
of razor wire to defend you against the pain
the nerves too sensitive to risk shaving
or dental care, one wrong move could trigger
an enemy bombardment raining down
pain like shrapnel, the kind that cuts
right through you, death exposed beneath the flesh

as your muscle finally deserted you
a slow retreat leaving you atop the ridge
alone your fingers entrenched to hold
your final position
you found breath too hard to command
and the forces of nature overran you at last

grief for me came later, six months after
your last stand they lowered your ashes
beneath Arlington grass, the uncompromising crack
of rifles filled silences and unhinged my eyes
you were gone and I shook, the spasms
of loss at last overtook my own palisade

what is left beside regret, the odd thoughts
that flank one unsuspecting, dispatch of interest
that could only be shared son to father
but the radio is dead
the line is cut