As a boy I’d fall asleep with my stomach to the bed,
An arm and opposite leg pitched at right angles, my head
Turned to face my hand and hidden underneath a pillow.
A full-time infantryman in those days, I was training —
And didn’t mind the gentle way my weight was dispersed, although
I held that position long after my neck was straining.
I’d hear the whoosh of footsteps in tall grass, a loping stride
Relayed through the mattress, floorboards, and from the other side
Of the earth: I had awakened it again, some dread beast
Who had fixed the place I slept, though it would take years at least . . .
Older, I understood the sound of steps I used to fear
Was my pulse. And, older still, I know that thud in my ear
Is the enemy, just a boy with a simple order,
And me walking out, unarmed, to accept his surrender.
After graduating college, Patrick Walsh served four years as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division. He later returned to school to receive an M.Phil. in Anglo-Irish literature from the University of Dublin, Trinity College. In America, his poems have appeared in Barrow Street, The Christian Science Monitor, Cimarron Review, Evergreen Review, The Hudson Review, The Recorder, and War, Literature & the Arts. His work has also appeared in College Green, The Malahat Review, THE SHOp, Poetry New Zealand, Fred Johnston’s “Markings” page in The Galway Advertiser, and The Quadrant Book of Poetry, 2001-2010.