the ballad of Willie Lester

word count: 244

Willie Lester was a man
who toured in Afghanistan;
he left when he was barely 18.

on that day, his mother cried
with sunshine in her eyes;
her son looked better than she’d ever seen.

he was decorated some
for how well he used his gun,
but mostly for the lives he fought to save;

he showed valor in a time
when his brothers lost their minds;
he was smart & strong, fast on his feet & brave.

he left with a purple heart,
but that was just the start
of the fearless fighter’s suffering & pain;

he came home where he grew up
& frequently threw up
from the flashbacks of his buddies maimed & slain

surrounded by the sound of the screaming
battleground
at night he never knew if he was dreaming

but in public he was fine
as he laughed & drank & dined
telling war stories his mom could understand;

little did Ms. Lester know
death had dealt the fatal blow
long ago to this exceptional young man.

one day, Willie got all dressed,
hung his medals on his chest
& wrote a letter for
when he was dead:
ma, my head’s so full of war,
there’s nothing left from before,
so I have to put a bullet there instead
.

he pulled the trigger fast.

all his neighbors heard the blast
& stretched their rubber necks to see the sight
of the man whose violent pain
had pulverized his brain
till he was killed by his own will to fight.