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I Knew Him Once (poem)
By David Sandgrund
I knew him in a past long ago,
When I knew him first, he was just returned
From war, thin, gaunt maybe, clean shaven
Recently married, he was in my anthropology class.
I liked him and we often dined together
Between classes. Great smile but a shadow
Behind his eyes...
When next I saw him, thirty years later
he was bearded with long curly salt and pepper hair
Just as tall but heavier,
We met at an art exhibit, he was showing
Photos of life in Vietnam 1967, we chatted
But I never mentioned our past together
Still a nice smile and now no shadow
In January, this year, I saw him
He didn't recognize me
I barely recognized him.
He's a regular in the local coffee shop,
still bearded, but now bald,
Still tall but very thin,
Like he's been ravaged by illness
Walks with a cane assisted by
Two boys, grandkids?
Still smiling but the shadow is back
There he is now in the distance
turning when he hears the car.
It's a cool spring day
Frost crusts the scrub at his feet
he is bundled up like winter
wearing a hat, wool sweater and jeans,
He looks in a hurry for warmer days
I want to stop, I really do,
but the driver, owner of car
is nervous. "Not sure I want to meet
an old boyfriend of yours."
So we sweep on by, I catch
his eye and he nods, smiling
as if in sudden recognition
Unexpected tears prick my eyes.
One day I'll stop
and we'll have coffee together,
he has stories to tell, I know.