They brought out the triple amputee.
We all stood at attention and applauded.
He crossed the diamond as if freeing himself
From some device invisible to the naked eye,
In a crisp dress uniform. He stabbed the earth
With a cane, one sleeve flapping in the breeze.
The applause exploded as he jack-knifed himself
To the mound. The voice boomed again:
“Two tours in Afghanistan, Triple Amputee
Recipient of five Purple Hearts and a Navy Cross,
A true American hero,” and a name was spoken
Like one of those you hear every single day.
He tossed the ball (the pitcher held his glove
At the small of his back so he wouldn’t tumble
From the mound) home. It plopped from his hand,
Dropped and rolled a few feet away. The handsome
Faces of the players, heroes themselves, froze;
They stood tall, shoulders back, limbs complete.
The announcer praised the triple amputee
For defending freedom, and for giving us
The chance to remember it, to salute his sacrifice.
But where, Iraq or Afghanistan, did he leave his limbs?
No one knew. No one but he thought it mattered
Which country of strangers had claimed them
As trophies of their own heroism, just that
He’s ours, and needs more than ever to feel it—
I’m thinking, Jesus, he gave up three of his four
With a good sixty years left, barring complications,
And for what but banks and business and good guys
In the stands, fans on their feet, patriots clapping
With the same thunder as the jets overhead, some
Checking to see who’s not enthusiastic enough.
Even those who showed up for baseball clapped,
While the team’s colors got painted on the heavens
Above the stadium. After the last out, defeated
Or victorious, we fight like dogs to exit the lot.