Desmond Piper: When I Was Young

When I Was Young

Any decent thinking man knows

that when he passes the ammunition…

he is participating in the killing also.”

                                    -Larry Dewy


When I was young
I imagined justice would taste sweet.
Like a righteous knight satisfied
to combat ubiquitous evil.
But I’ve never met such a warrior,
nor such justice, rarely such evil.
Justice is a bitter Merlot,
or Sumatra. An aged Bourbon.
Fragile recipes fraught with risk,
borne of ancient, intricate processes.
One small variance,
the batch is intractably tainted.


From tax payer to sniper
we have blood on our hands.
Some righteous, some collateral.
We so easily become what we have vowed
to destroy. Yet destroy it, we must.
Bitter justice requires impossible accuracy.
The exact recipe has been lost to humanity.
Maybe we only briefly had it, traded it
for a forbidden flavor so long ago.
Maybe the righteous knight is a myth.
Maybe he wrote poems in the evening
trying to make sense of his day job.


As a child I would steal a sip
of my dad’s coffee,
but preferring simplistic sweetness,
my innocent taste buds grimaced.
Every now and then I reminiscently indulge
the blissful ignorance of Halloween candy.
Now middle-aged, I’m more satisfied
with a morning cup of black coffee.
Or with dinner, a red wine.
The naive shock metamorphosed
into provocative contemplation.
I’ve spread my wings.
I’d never go back, even if I could.


The tongue inside my graying head
prefers bourbon over ice cream.
The burn reminds me I’m still alive,
the smoothness teases that maybe
I still deserve pleasure.
Conflicting sensations generated
from a single event.
Pride and shame
Regret and anticipation
Humor and horror
You’ll never experience that
in a jelly bean.


Merlot. Sumatra. Bourbon.
Adult flavors for an adult world.
My burdened mind and slight bulge
between L4 and L5 seldom consent
to a full night’s sleep.
Having wrestled with Power greater than
myself, I’ve earned my limp
and been rewarded with knowledge
of precarious joy, mysteriously
laced within the harsh and bitter
flavors of real life.

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