THE  AMAZING FANTASY POETRY & FLASH FICTION OF JON GUTMACHER

The Yellow Ribbon – the poem & story

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The Yellow Ribbon – the poem & story

“The Yellow Ribbon” is a free verse poem and flash fiction story that has its origin from the Civil War about a Confederate prisoner who was finally released and was on his way home. He sent a letter to his love to tie a yellow ribbon around the oak tree near her home if she still wanted him.  The story has progressed with the years, and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon around the ol’ Oak Tree” was quite a famous recording, about a recently released convict who also sent such a letter,  and if the ribbon was there knew he was welcome back, but if not, he would just ride on.  The song awoke this vision of such a man,  takes place around the 1950’s,  and  is told from the perspective of a fellow bus passenger, a teenage girl, who befriends him on her own journey with her brother, out to California.  It is a story that touches my heart, and hope you enjoy as much as I do.

The Yellow Ribbon
©2015 by Jon Gutmacher

Going home
so long ago
a Greyhound bus rolling thru rolling hills
filled with passengers
their journey long
all to a distant place

We sat together
Jim and I
teenagers on a trip
out to meet grandparents long estranged
way out west
so far away
there, to the California coast

And sat before us in seat alone
a man alone
so solemn there
an old worn suit, large paper bag
I couldn’t guess his age

But as we passed by towns so far
stretched down the road
all hours apart
I wondered about that man who sat
so solemn and so worn

The seat was empty
next to him
and I moved instinctively
sat right down
I sat right down
just cleared my throat
and then began to talk

He then looked up
He looked so worn
His eyes set deep
his brow so creased
but yet a smile crossed his face
I could see he wanted to talk

And as we talked
his story did unfold
how long ago, when he was young
he made a mistake
a deep mistake
and paid for it
with a sentence in hard time jail

And now he was finally coming home
or at least he was making the attempt
he’d written his family – if they wanted him
leave a yellow ribbon tied
on the grand oak tree
that stood just before the town

“If the ribbon’s there – then I’ll get off
“But, if it’s not – I’ll travel on.
“I have no idea – where then I’ll go
“But I won’t burden them, anymore.”

He shook his head
I could see both hands shake
he trembled there
so all alone
and then he said “I just don’t know.
“It’s been so long
“It’s been so very long.”

I moved on back
and sat by Jim
and took his hand
and told the story of the man in front
we were only several miles away
from where his town was coming up

And then I saw it
huge that tree
A golden oak – in morning sun
yellow ribbons adorned – by the hundreds to see
covered almost every branch

The man wiped a tear
and then got off
with just that big paper bag
his hope restored
and I saw his family gathered all around
as the bus moved out
and down that lonely road

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