When I Was Beautiful

My being drunk by 10:30 a.m. was forgiven.
                                          on Lake Sante Fe.
Or surfing tipsy in St. Augustine
            teaching my older brothers
                                                            to ride waves
before they deploy.
                                    laughter like a box of scold puppies.
            First leave
                        they took me carousing up in River Street
to a club with all their friends.
                                                I could get away
with dancing by myself
                                                when I was beautiful.
                        How we met those French girls
                        playing truth or dare—
two running peach naked through Savannah, Georgia.
      Last call had passed.
                                    The girls invited the three of us to their suite.
On the way home we schemed up
            next leave—
My brothers had to be returned.
                                                Like keys to a house we were renting
their dog tags were placed into our mother’s hand.
                                                            The family was last beautiful
                        before the chaplain’s knock
that no one heard.
                              In my sleep
                                          I’m visited with images of my brothers
so they’re still living                                          in my imagining.
                                    I think about promises
to tramp from Red River to 5th street.            I’d made good on that.
                                    Two sets of dog tags around my neck,
            and never came home.
Wound up painting down by the Colorado River.
            There I could work in the lull.
                                                                        No mother’s eyes
                                    that say I’m her only son, now.
            No mother’s hands.
No badge and no gun glinting in the sun
                                                            to remind me
my being drunk by 10:30 a.m. was forgiven
                                                when I was beautiful.

Michael Hammerle holds a BA in English, cum laude, from the University of Florida. His poetry has appeared in Mosaic Art & Literary Journal and Poetry Quarterly, where his poem is a contender for the 2016 Rebecca Lard Award. Hammerle was recently named a finalist for the 2016 Hayden’s Ferry Review Poetry & Flash Fiction Contest and for Press 53’s 2015 Prime Number Magazine Awards. He is the Creative Director of C.W. Strickland, Inc. He lives in Archer, Florida, with his girlfriend and their three Staffordshire Terriers.

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1 Response to When I Was Beautiful

  1. Zeke Wyatt says:

    What a great poem. So graceful and sad.

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