A metal plate in his head,
he had survived deployment to the battle zone.
His purple heart meant that he had suffered head injury
defending his country: a war hero of WWI,
his mind crowded with dreams of recriminating guilt,
visions, nightmares, clanging medals for bravery,
memories of dead bodies and body parts,
he returned home from a war that he did not fully understand.
No one really knew the bulk of what went through his mind.
Once a brave warrior who had faced and overcome insurmountable danger,
he searched for a scapegoat with the help of Jack Daniel’s.
What is a disabled warrior?
Do they stroll and run on false legs, riding bicycles,
playing cricket and football on crutches, chopping wood and playing golf with one arm?
Do they train to become carpenters, engineers, bookkeepers and chauffeurs?
A bionic man, Winfield survived gangrene and infection, popular among severely injured soldiers.
With no experience of trench warfare,
he was shot in the head
when he popped up over a trench one time too many
to face a hail of machine-gun bullets.
The jagged fragment of a bursting shell tore open his scalp
leaving him the victim,
a permanent object of repulsion to others,
and a grievous burden to himself.
Despondency, melancholia, dark suicidal thoughts,
and psychological effects left him
a stranger in a living hell.
A stranger to himself, he was a maladjusted person,
his hidden history of the First World War.
He was never officially celebrated as a wounded hero.
He kept the medal in his dresser drawer,
his room spotlessly clean unless he was stinking drunk – when he usually wet his bed.
Clean mattresses were replaced several times.
He’d get up early, eat a breakfast and take his place
—the front porch rocking chair
from late spring, summer to early fall.
Kids in the neighborhood laughed at him as they all had seen him staggering home
or lying drunk in an alley needing rescue from friends, passersby and Big Daddy.
We all loved him.