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Missing Tyrone

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She hangs a picture of her grandson Tyrone

In the hallowed space on her wall

Between JFK and Martin Luther King

When news of the JFK assassination came cross the TV

She was doing her daughter's hair

She dropped the hot comb and burned her daughter's leg

When King was killed, she spilled coffee all over her nurse's uniform

But yesterday, when the men in uniforms came to her door, she already knew

She knew by the knots in her stomach, by the way

She couldn't unclench her fists, by the half moons

Embedded in her palms when she finally could

She raised Tyrone

She taught him how to tie his shoes

She kissed his knee when he fell off his bike

She told him not to chew with his mouth open

On Friday nights Tyrone use to score touchdowns

The other boys, bigger boys could never catch him

She watched and remembered how hard it was for her

To catch him when he was running from a spanking or a bath

Tyrone ran for almost a thousand yards

He ran away from bigger boys but couldn't run from

Roadside bombs near Iraqi highways

Tyrone looked good in his uniform

His daddy was a soldier and a good man before

Vietnam messed up his mind; he also looked good in his uniform

Mrs. Williams remembers the night Tyrone came home from the recruiter

They sat together at the kitchen table. He showed her green books

Made like magazines, he showed her pictures of men with painted faces

Who held machine guns like reapers hold sickles

He showed her the color pictures of Army Unit patches:

Black Horse,

1st Cav,

Old Iron Sides,

82nd Airborne

He wanted to jump out of planes like they did on Army of One commercials

He wanted to blouse dress green pants over spit shined jump boots

He wanted to wear a beret with his uniform

Tyrone came home from Basic Training with a high and tight haircut

He wore a T-shirt that read ³Kill em All and let God sort em' out²

Mrs. Williams wondered what happened to the little boy

Who use to be scared of the cookie monster

She found a pack of cigarettes on Tyrone's dresser next to

A lighter with an American flag and a blond in a bikini painted on it

Tyrone didn't smoke cigarettes before he enlisted

She wondered what else he did or would do, that he hadn't done before

When he left after his two weeks leave he wore his dress greens

He stuck out his chest, he was very proud of his expert grenade and rifle badges

He stayed in the mirror a long time to make sure the class A cap fit just right

She wishes she had had enough money to send Tyrone to college

He got a football scholarship to a small Christian school in the Mid-West

Tyrone said the only black people in the town were the two that were on the

Football team with him and the three on the basketball team

He didn't like the way people looked at him,

It was not safe to go on dates with white girls

Mrs. Williams remembers asking him why he wanted to enlist

Tyrone said because he wanted to make something out of his life

Because he wanted to be somebody

She told him he already was somebody

But Tyrone didn't believe it

Mrs. Williams is not happy that her daughter is dead

But she is thankful that her daughter didn't live long enough

To have to bury her only child

She wishes her husband was still alive so she wouldn't have to

Make the funeral arrangements by herself

She does not have to worry about what to bury Tyrone in

There is not enough of Tyrone's body for an open casket

Tomorrow, she will go to visit Tyrone's father at the VA

She hopes the doctors will tell her not to inform him of his son's death

Mrs. Williams doesn't know how to tell him,

Though she has practiced several times in the mirror

And surrendered to tears each time

Tonight, the ladies from the church will come to check on her

Thelma, Reese, Daisy and Ann

They will tell her, ³The Lord don't put no more on you than you can bear²

They will tell her, it will be hard, but she will make it through because

She knows Jesus

Mrs. Williams is glad she knows Jesus

But she wants to know why her grandson was taken away from her

On an Iraqi highway

Near a town with a name

She cannot even pronounce

Howard L. Craft is a poet, playwright, arts educator and Gulf War era vet. He has recently completed The Vet Who Lived Underground: Dispatches from Beneath the Map, a full-length play that deals with the struggles of a veteran returning home from the Gulf War, and his take on the current situation in Iraq. Howard plans to direct and produce The Vet in January 2005.

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