local_library His Limbo Soliloquy

by Carl Palmer

Published in Issue No. 289 ~ June, 2021

Actually, I like lockdown.

I already was

before COVID anyway,

but now I’ve got my privacy.

No family feeling forced to visit

or hold vigil in my netherworld,

he confides through the phone.


Both of us former Army soldiers

placing us on common ground

made introductions easier

with the usual “where were we when”

comparisons of duty assignments

all military members embrace.



sharing multiple telephone calls

these past seven months

since my assignment

to be his companion

as a hospice volunteer,

I have yet to meet him


due to pandemic restrictions.


Using his bedside number

at the nursing home

I can call anytime,

not worry about visiting hours,

ask if he’s busy,

got time to talk.


His answer’s

most always the same,

Just busy here being alone,

too close to death to complain.

Clicking me to speaker

he begins

what he calls “me-memories

from a time

when when was when.”


Mostly musing

of being anywhere

but there,

lost in an actual place,


“what was with what is”

behind and in front

of his shadow,

recalling dreams

as a younger man,

of a future

in past perfect tense.


And times

talking of present times

from his

no man’s land outpost,

All days end

as they begin

in purgatory,


recopying yesterday,

cared for by hosts

of faceless masked angels

not letting me die alone.


Forgive me

only thinking of myself,

I just need you to hear

I’m here.

Inside I’m your age,

the two of us sharing

a brew at the NCO club,

years ago

and oceans away,


talking of our day.


To me he’s the sergeant

with permanent

change of station orders

in transition

for his final mission

ending his time

on active service

in hopes

his God is religious

and his terminal assignment

is good.


account_box More About

Carl “Papa” Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, Virginia, lives in University Place, Washington. He is retired from the military and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enjoying life now as “Papa” to his grand descendants and being a Franciscan Hospice volunteer. Carl is a Pushcart Prize and Micro Award nominee. MOTTO: Long Weekends Forever!