green-target.jpg!Large
Still Waiting
by Mary Anna Kruch

I.
When I walked to our meeting place
to wait for you by the river,
it was another 70s evening
for girls with flowers in their hair
and boys lucky enough to snag deferments
or low lottery numbers.
Students strolled by in a restless shuffle
back to dorms for dinner.
Light grew dim, and I waited.
Night classes stirred sandals into a growing hustle
past the peace sign on the big rock,
past the tents in People’s Park.
Still, I waited.
Guitars strummed; leaflets and weed were offered.
A boisterous group with signs marched to Beaumont Tower.
They had no problem speaking their minds.
But you did.

II.
I thought back to a night
soon after we met.
We sat up until 4 a. m.
under a faint, blue light on your bed
where you spilled what guts you did not lose
on the front lines.
You spoke of women and children—
huts you would not set ablaze,
the surprise attack,
and the men in your company
who were gone—while you lived on.
The war took so much more than your body—
for a time, it took your voice.
As I dared to reveal myself,
you held me at a distance,
masking your face,
closing me out of all but the most required talk.
Did I misjudge you? Expect too much? Push too hard?
I was aware of my naivety—
you who had breathed death.

III.
Still, in the beginning, you had agreed
to walk and talk and just be together.
So I resolved to be patient,
to hold my peace     to give you room
to move beyond my need   to know your mind.
So I waited at our meeting place.
You did not see me
waiting for you by the river.
An hour went by—
and then another.
When at last your headlights
came into view,
you drove right past
without a look in my direction.
Why couldn’t you see me
waiting for you by the river?
Branches whispered, entwined
over slow, black water.
The breeze kicked up, grew cold.

IV.
We are better now.
I learned to leave you alone
in your dark moods,
and we don’t always talk with words.
At the river, we did not know
the depth of Agent Orange’s
destruction: leukemia.
Now, infusions restore some lost power;
you stand tall in the growth of our landscape.
Dark times are rare.
Nonetheless, years later
I pass that place and remember
the fear the hurt the dread
as crowds of students still head to class,
still gather at Beaumont Tower,
still form a never-ending flow.
I wanted to talk, but you didn’t.
See me. I am here,
will always be here.
I am still waiting for you.

PAINTING: Green Target by Jasper Johns (1955).

This poem was published by The Mark Literary Review in 2018.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a snapshot of one day shortly after I met my husband, a disabled Vietnam veteran. He had been drafted just before graduation, wounded the first month there, and then sent to various overseas hospitals for 18 months. He soon  returned to school to finish his degree program at Michigan State University, staying with one of his two brothers also enrolled at the university. The poem is set on the MSU campus near the river, where we would sometimes meet, and it is addressed to him. At 19, I did not have a lot of experience with boyfriends and knew almost nothing of PTSD, but found after nearly 48 years of marriage, I am persistent—stubborn even, and we are both all in. There have been many weeks, especially in the first half of our marriage, where I have been forced to, as the poem says, “… hold my peace    to give you room    to move beyond my need    to know your mind…” The final stanza, IV, brings the reader up to date. Since the night described in stanza II, my husband has not spoken of his experiences. He was just one of a few men in his company who survived an ambush by the Vietcong. Over the past year, the pandemic lockdown has exacerbated my husband’s restless need to get into the car and just leave. But over the years, he has also learned to navigate my anxiety and depression, so I remain, as always, there, still waiting (for him). My poem, “Still Waiting,” was the first of many that I have written over the past four years that are my way of working through the ongoing process of sharing my life with a man who carries so many physical and emotional scars.

Mary Anna Kruch copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Anna Kruch is a career educator and writer, whose poetry is inspired by her Italian and American families, social justice, PTSD, and nature. She leads a local writing group and mentors new teachers and young writers. Recent poetry appears in Wayne Literary Review, Third Wednesday, Snapdragon, Humana Obscura, Panyplyzine, Blue Heron Review, and five anthologies. Her first poetry collection, We Draw Breath from the Same Sky, was published in 2019 by Finishing Line Press. Visit her at maryannakruch.com and on Facebook and Instagram.