The Hero

The Hero

A Poem by Al R. Arce

On a summer afternoon, as I looked upon my returning son
From wars waged in unknown lands, over reasons from us banned,
I saw no glitter of joy, but rather the coldness of someone stoic.
As if someone or something had undone him from within
"Did you see the nightmares I warned you about, the realities you will recount
When within your coventry you feel the company of the reaper's account?"

Too long we were contenders, as I tried to be his mentor while he, the offender.
With anvil and hammer to exorcized I tried the demons he enamored.
A foolish endeavor, fed by father's love, from reason, severed.
Blinded by hope, or perhaps empty faith, I hammered on, looking for some shape
I had no instructions, no guidance to follow, just believes, feelings and thoughts.
Yet despite my self consumption, no shape I could mold from his soul.

In purple his heart became dressed, his mind restless, distressed
"You know my purpose." He would say, "All you warned me became true,
Now that I'm useless you must know, there is but one path I must follow."
As I gazed upon his face, the coldness of his voice invaded my void,
Was this specter my failure, or the reflector of unspeakable vogue?
I know is real, I know where it leads, yet to all, he's mythical.

He paid adoration to his sculpted shell, adorned with tattoos of trivial glories.
Children's games turned thrilling horror as he hid in clothes drenched in blood.
His heavy breathing restrained by the memories of dark rooms filled with gloom.
I saw it in his eyes, where the terrors of our past became just travesty.
Was I hard or too weak, or was I just a fool trying to turn him meek?
Now I see the hollowness inside him, and despite my loud warnings, they all cheer...

Hero of the flag for which all of us stand, defender of our ways, slayer of our threats!
Free dinners, free drinks, all smiling they salute him in wonted gratitude.
Yet behind his smile, within his semblance, I do see the bitter menace.
Gently napping, just lurking, growing stronger, 'till he could hold it no longer.
I hopelessly spread reason, either to quench his fiendish or to avoid my treason
To those I still cared for, before everything comes to finish.

Time goes by, and I still cared for him - wondering, fearing,
Waiting for the monster to come out of his keep, wishing it was a dream.
But the coldness stayed, calm as a windless night where only critters and frogs sing
He recovered, once again he overcame the ever present scars of battles past
But his effort only fed the rage hidden within, which then began to seep.
No one knows, their blindness feeds my madness as I faced my constant nightmare

My boy, my dear Son, I am sorry for what I've done!
I did not harm you out of anger or despair, I tried in every way
I cried and I lied, I kissed him and I hit him, I enslaved him and released him
I broke him and repaired him, he had everything and I left him with nothing
I stood at the edge of rage, fell to the ground as putrefied waste
I swear on my Father's grave, to him, for him, everything, I gave.

Hours he spent, below in the damp, unfinished basement
I could hear the weights, clinging and clanking with every lift.
Yet moments of silence enveloped what seemed like prison terms.
He didn't say, his secrets were tucked away deep in his own self.
Day after day, cling, clank, then maddening stillness underneath my feet.
"I want my form regained, so I can do again what I used to do so well" He said.

Unaware of my intentions, I took him where he could not avoid intervention,
An old graveyard where forgotten heroes finally found haven
Three graves I show him: one with a statue, in uniform, majestic in stance
Above his image, WWI, a soldier's body recovered from France.
The second a common stone, handwritten in ink, fresh flowers.
Last a tombstone - forgotten, weather beaten to oblivion.

"Which one are you?" I asked in defiance. Determined to uncover a clue
That would put an end to my fears, or make them all real.
In the middle of the sacred ground, he faced me, smiled, unbound...
"You know what I did! I killed and killed again. You made me!"
His emptiness stared at me, as dark rays cutting through the day
All my mistakes, all my efforts gone to waste...

"You should have left me at that asylum, where the unwanted are left in denial
A stranger, you let me into your home, you tried to make me you
But I was already whole, I could never be you..."
Images of that boy, not killed but given, for a stranger's joy.
That innocence, pure and clean, hiding within its essence
The mysteries of his begetter, never to be remembered.

Weeks slowly rippled, one behind the other, breaking the stillness of the surface
Of my conscience and my faith. My resolve conquered by the wraith
Risen from that which I held dear, clouding what once was clear.
Two fronts shaping thunderstorms, where lightning shed no light
Where thunder my soul plundered, and rain eroded my might.
Unable to make a choice, unwilling to raise my voice.

As if searching for a sign from God, I had to search beyond his words
In his absence I opened the door to his lair below my floor
For I had to know the reason for the quiet-what storm hid behind the silence.
Down the stairs, two naked lightbulbs showed the irons that built his hulk
On display, boxes neatly arranged, nothing out of place.
My eyes intensely travelled through the lair, 'till they set on a wooden chair.

A long, narrow, shallow box, almost hidden behind some props
Too casually arranged behind a table and the chair.
The color, olive green, made it stand out of the scene.
My hands took hold of it as I struggled with my soul
As my feelings began sinking with the weight I lifted
Committed, un conflicted the content clearly yelled..

Wood and steel - aged but well maintained.
It's barrel, now silent, yet still able to scream
Pistol grip waiting for her lover's hand
Thirty thorns in curved magazines
Waiting for their turn
To once again burn
Flesh and bone.

My blood, once again flowed, awaken from the frost.
I rushed to the phone expecting a savior's tone.
Yet my heart turned to stone as no one answered my call.
I dialed and dialed again, i restlessly walk towards the back yard
Snow capped mountains, surrounded by forests - a flawless surrounding.
Then I remembered - Independence Day...

The day of our nation, when heroes are the toast of celebrations
My mind rose from delusion, only to be dozed in disbelief and confusion
With a roar, the stillness was disrupted by my car.
I rushed back in the house, down the dungeon, plunging...
He had returned in the midst of my wrack, to be gone moments later, driving fast
My '68 stallion... Green. Just like the passenger he was driving with...

No time to think as I had to get to Market St. - yet no steel was left to steer.
The stable. The Colorado Ranger. Just like my son.
Not soon enough, the horse was in gallop through the dense woods.
As the trees fasted by my blurry eyes, I could not flee the horror I could see
Visions of death and dread while I plunged in regret over my own neglect
A father's passion, and not a rifle, would be who fashioned this reaper's raffle.

My son - The hero. After so long, still revered by those unversed
Of the quiet tempest within his flesh, about to be released
My son - the hero. Rescued, nurtured and loved. God how I implored!
He'd be protected from evil, when all along my prayers were feeble.
My son - the hero. The town's just up ahead and the horse is fading away.
Could I prevent it? May they forgive me, when the hero returns to form...

© 2014 Al R. Arce

Author's Note

Al R. Arce
Purely fictional!
Colorado Ranger is a horse breed.
The green '68 stallion is a mustang bullit.
The weapon is an AK-47
Noticed the gun shape of the verses describing the weapon?
The son is adopted.
He refers to his unknown biological father when telling his adoptive father that he was "already whole"

My Review

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I finished reading this poem and let out a long sigh. Then sucked in some air again as I realized I'd held my breath through the whole thing. Fiction mirroring reality so well, no deus ex machina, no happy ending - just an ache. Beautifully done.

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Al R. Arce

8 Years Ago

Thank you so much! I am glad you enjoyed it.
There is no real way to quantify the pains of the soldier We lie and tell them we have their backs But we let them waste away amid the horrors they have seen and from there we simply close the door on what is truly our shame.

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

You are a master storyteller. Your words drew me in and held my many wonderful lines - it is impossible to choose my favorite.
Exceptional writing my friend.

:) Julie

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Al R. Arce

8 Years Ago

You are far too kind! Thank you so much!

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4 Reviews
Added on July 20, 2014
Last Updated on July 21, 2014
Tags: Terrorism, parenthood, war


Al R. Arce
Al R. Arce

St. Louis, MO

I'm in my 50's. My family is my life. Writing is my hobby. I hope you find here something that you enjoy. Constructive comments are welcomed. If you ask me to read something I will. Thank you for.. more..


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