Carl Palmer


left unsaid

as I enter his room
he focuses upon me
silently begging me not to ask
of his absent roommate

empty bed freshly made
side table tidy and neat
surrounding area cleared
of anything personal

in that part of the VA hospital
where soldiers go missing                               


love/hate relationship

shaved head nose ring long hair beard
frayed jeans leather jacketed arms crossed
crude tattooed right fist spells HATE
across knuckles eyes daring comment
from strangers in the full visitors room

wheel chaired sleeping mother sighs 
as he gently touches his lips to her cheek
with left hand labeled LOVE
whisps the white hair from her eyes
smiles shyly with new friends in the room

her candle

so many candles I’ve never burned
a marriage candle
two first communion candles from my kids
a bicentennial candle
millennium candle
so many candles I’ve never burned

her candle I’ve burned for over twenty years
not every day but most everyday
a memory of what once was
of what we had
me and her
her candle
originally voluptuously large
beautifully ornate
burning bright hot and fast
we were young then 

gradually her candle grew old
became hollow
most of the outside still holding fast
dusty with age
the wick long lost
in darkness temporarily filled
with a tea light candle
certain songs movies or moods
seem to rekindle the freshness
remind me of when her candle was new

in the light of day reality blazes
her candle actually an empty shell
so hard to visualize as it once was
as in last night’s memory

beginning to wonder
continuing to wonder
if after all this time
I shouldn’t just throw it out
this foolish vigil
this senseless old man
end this memorial
this ritual and move on

but as the room grows dark
the many candles I’ve never burned
remain so
a new tea light candle
and she is back
we   me and her 
her candle
and my thoughts
of twenty years ago



Carl "Papa" Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway VA now lives in University Place WA. He has a 2015 contest winning poem riding buses somewhere in Seattle. Carl is a Pushcart Prize and Micro Award nominee. MOTTO: Long Weekends Forever He can be reached at