Cliff Coats
from the chapbook
Memorial Day

We sit in the Texas sun, huddled in the shade looking to the blue sky for a white cloud of reprieve; a cool breeze to push the sweat off of our foreheads and cool us.

There are three of us, me Bryan and Mac.

We would walk to the water but Bryan is paralyzed and his electric wheelchair canít make it down the steep rocks to the shore.  So we carry him.

He takes a newbornís steps; locked in flesh made more like clay from a teenaged reckless auto accident.

By the time we get to the water weíre all burning up so we plunge into the lake with shouts of chilled alarm and rapturous glee.

Mac just got back for Iraq where a roadside bomb tore off half his face.

G.I. tattoos from Japan, Korea and Killen cover his arms and a fan blows out a trach ring in his neck; each one a mark of his service . . . a sign of where he has been.

His words are muffled by his swollen reformed chin; distorted and covered in surgery scars and powder burns.

He washes down a fistful of painkillers with a cold swig of Lone Star and a wince.

His trach ring sighs for him and it makes me angry to see him like this.  Another victim of reckless indestructible youth.

They both sit an armís length from me there on the rocks of the shore and I wonder why Iím the one who is whole.

I wonder how I made it through the gauntlet of youth unscathed, physically speaking at least. 

Just a few scars; some you can see and others hidden so deep you can only sense them, like danger. 
Nothing as obvious as quadriplegia or horrid mangling. 
Nothing children would gawk at.
Nothing to single me out.

Nothing to pity.

I float in the cool water pitched along by waves, bobbing in a sea I canít control; an ocean I can never command and I dip my head under and I swim.