It ends or begins in trenches,
in deep mud caking socks and skin,
clogging the nose.
December snags pointing
to a grey sky
like old fingers.
He dreams of hair falling softly
on a shoulder, a light from an open
door. Where am I, he says to no one,
to the mud, to the wind,
his hands trembling.

He sits in front of the fire,
sinking into the cushion,
shadows crackling on the wall,
an old hotel once visited
by Taft, she tells him.
He sips cognac.
The day went well,
coffee and biscuits
with marmalade,
a trip to the mall,
a walnut frame for a picture
taken on the pier.

 You are not here, a voice whispers
to him as he stands
outside a shop window.
He enters and rummages
through woolen sweaters for sale.
Do you remember when winters
were cold, he says to the clerk
who smiles as if he were listening.

In spring a young captain stands guard
and watches his men bathe naked
in the stream.  Vulnerable and young,
they look to him like angels.
There is no death here,
the mud of it is washed clean,
their skin glowing in the sun.
Here the trees hold their leaves,
here young men are merely boys

Brady Peterson

from Between Stations