Market Day by Karly Randolph Pitman

Market Day

On market day
my father unfolds himself
inside his plaid coat
and his black ball cap.
Vietnam Veteran, it spells
across the brim
dotted with army pins and buttons.

We walk the stalls. The fruit
vendor offers a slice of
orange and he takes me to the
deli that makes his favorite
sandwich. He’s interrupted in line
by a stranger’s handshake:
“Thank you for your service.”
My father nods and replies,
twice, “Thank you.”

Sometimes a man will bound up
and grasp his elbow, forearm
to forearm. He smiles wide and finds my
father’s eyes – “Welcome home, brother!”

I was born after my father’s war.
It was not his war, either.
Was it anyone’s? Yet he went.
He arrived in country in November.
When he returned the following year
his mother’s hair had turned white.

On the flight home, in his battle fatigues,
the other passengers ask
to be moved to another part of the
plane. Each trip to the market
he gets back on that plane.
Fifty-three years later, the
passengers have returned
to their seats. They see
the uniform and see what he saw,
now buried deep: “Thank you
for your service.”

Another piece of him returns.
His mother’s hair turns grey,
then ash, then brown:
radiant, alive.


Karly Randolph Pitman is the founder and steward of Growing Humankindness, a soul sangha of the heart. She’s a mother and mental health advocate, wonderer and writer, teacher and craftswoman who does as much as possible with her hands. She lives in Austin, Texas where she walks among gnarled oak trees and tends her ancestors, those kin of family and community. Through each trip to the underworld, she remains in awe of the human heart.

2 thoughts on “Market Day by Karly Randolph Pitman

  1. I love the compassion in this poem–how powerfully you connect with the deep pain, the slow changing of perspective, the wounds of the past, the slow healing–

  2. Thank you, Rosemerry. I feel so grateful to tell my dad’s story. Every time I go to the market with him, I feel the healing that moves through him.

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