The 2River View 25.2 (Winter 2021)

Roger Camp

Stalag 17 - No Visitors

My neighbor Jack
laughed at my retirement.
Having owned three service stations
he was up at 4:30 am
every morning for a lifetime.

Jack owned a vintage Ranchero
bearing a personalized plate.
No license for vanity
was an in-your-face declaration.

Once while talking politics
our words streaming
to the street
as he washed down his driveway
he turned to me
it wasn’t like the movie.

The only time in eight years
harshness tinted his tone
followed by the muscles
in his jaw
working out,
his eyes
in the thousand yard stare
I had come to know
in the marines.

Returning from a road trip
I looked across the street
seeing a plain white van
two men in ties
and short sleeve shirts
their muscled hands
medically gloved
gently guiding a gurney
with a black body bag so thin
only the feet made a rise.

At the end Jack refused
all ministrations
taped a sheet of paper
No Visitors
to his mail box.
When his kidneys failed
he rejected dialysis.
I figure any man
having fallen in flames
from the sky
who had slept for years
back to back
on a three tiered bunk
sharing a straw mattress
laced with lice
to survive Austrian winters
on rations of raw potatoes
and rotten bread
had already kept
his appointment with death.

Roger Camp lives in Seal Beach, California. His work has appeared in Midwest Quarterly, Nimrod, North American Review, and Southern Poetry Review.

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