Poetry Feature: Anonymous

November 19, 2017



The old Communist behind the bar is decanting

rot-gut red into green bottles, pours me a taste.

He’d fought in Spain with the Lincoln Brigade

and in the big war that followed. He has stories.

Oral history we call it: I want his past, he hopes

for my future. He pours, I drink. So we begin.

Depression days, hunger on the streets, he complains

to a priest who titles him a Communist: his calling.

He won’t speak about battles, nothing of his Silver Star

at Anzio, liberating a Nazi camp. He blesses his luck.

Once he aimed his rifle at an American officer shooting

German POWs but had no qualms about killing the SS. 

No poetry lost, he says. Later I find ten-dollar bills

saved in the pages of his favored poets, Blake and Yeats.

When we walk through the zoo admiring caged monkeys,

he talks about a Nuremberg Tribunal for Richard Nixon.

At the ball park, he refuses to stand for the flag.

Cheer up, he chirps, the worst is yet to come.

While sleuthed by the FBI, he persuades an agent

to give him free rides; he can live without a car. 

At his job in a mayonnaise factory, he declines

promotions so immigrant workers get better pay.

One night he warns me his comrades are dying fast. 

He says, I’ll be seeing you soon—as a ghost.

We scatter his ashes, as he wished, with the fish

outside the Golden Gate where no one could find him.

–Peter Neil Carroll

“Anonymous” was first published in the Chiron Review (Summer 2017).