Impaired poems by Michael Lepore

picture of Michael Lepore
Photo by Nancy H. Lepore  

Michael F. Lepore’s newest collection, Impaired, has been widely praised. Julia Paul writes this: “The poems in this collection provide glimpses into the hearts and minds of combat veterans. Unique among the generations of soldiers returning from war, Vietnam veterans came home to an atmosphere of indifference or, in some cases, outright scorn. Some of the soldiers in these poems are at war with themselves, some return to the country where their youth was lost, some fear for the future: “He has heard it before and now he hears it again: the world / is still exploding.” Tony Fusco adds: “In Impaired Mike Lepore presents us with a spectrum of insightful experiences of Vietnam Veterans gleaned from his many years of activity as an active volunteer and advocate for veterans’ affairs. The book includes poems that tell stories of aging men once vital and strong facing the reality of age and death approaching. A wheelchair-bound man ponders why they have not come to bring him to dinner, his main concern—just one of a myriad heart-wrenching looks at children of the war in a VA hospital. Readers will visit modern Vietnam, places where lifelong and life-altering events burned themselves into the souls of so many who carried their action and their consequences back home: the Hotel Hilton, the jungle, the streets of Saigon.  And you will confront the America they returned to.  As in real life, there are seldom happy endings in this book, but there is understanding, empathy and an important perspective for survivors and their families and friends.” And this from Victor Altshul: “As he has done so eloquently in the past, Michael Lepore deploys his poetic gifts in the service of chronicling the inexorable wreckage, emotional and physical, wrought by the Vietnam War, and by extension, by all wars. His vision is bleak, unsparing and utterly honest; he offers the reader no easy comfort or superficial appeal to patriotism and duty. The damage he describes is permanent and terrible; the victim is disabled by the destruction of his capacity to give and receive love. But we the readers are rewarded by the gift of Lepore’s compassion, depth of insight and incisiveness of language. Reading Impaired is a deeply moving experience.”
  Impaired cover image
  Photo courtesy of Paul McCallum, Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority

Dr. Michael Lepore, a retired orthodontist and award-winning poet, lives with his wife, Nancy, in the Historic Main Street District of Glastonbury, Connecticut.  He is the author of Forgotten Heroes—Poems For and About Veterans of the Vietnam War.  His second book, Vietnam Voices—Echoes of the Vietnam Experience, received the Bronze Medal in the poetry category of the 2018 Awards Program of the Military Writers Society of America. His third book, Moral Injury—A Vietnam War Journey of Moral and Spiritual Confusion, received the Gold Medal in the 2017 Awards Program of the Military Writers Society of America; and his fourth book, My Inner EyeReflections Seen Through a Veil of Time, was released in September, 2018. All four books were published by Grayson Books, West Hartford, CT. In July 2018, Lepore was selected, through an application process, for a three-year term as Poet Laureate for the town of Glastonbury, CT.  As poet laureate, he maintains a monthly poetry column in the Glastonbury Citizen, in which he features the works of local poets. He has started a poetry writing class at the local Senior Center and worked with the Glastonbury High School English Department to produce a music and poetry event in May 2019, showcasing student works of original poetry and music. He has produced poetry events at River Bend Bookshop, the local library, a community center, and the Audubon Center in Glastonbury. Lepore’s poem, “Impaired,” received the First Place Award in the Connecticut Poetry Society’s 2019 Connecticut Poetry Award Contest.

Click here for selections from the book.
Click here to view upcoming events.


ISBN 978-1-943826-77-3
First Edition, 2020
50 pages
This book is available at all bookstores
including Amazon

and in particular from

River Bend Bookshop
2217 Main Street
Glastonbury, CT 06033
860 430-6608

The book can be ordered directly from the author:
Michael F. Lepore
2205 Main St.
Glastonbury, CT 06033
Send $15 per book
plus $4.00 shipping in CT
and $6 shipping outside CT,
checks payable to
Michael F. Lepore.


copyright © Michael F. Lepore




In a wheelchair under the portico near
the front entrance, he shares the quietness
with others—some legless, some mindless,
all waiting for darkness.

From the other side of the hedgerow
he hears sounds of youth in the schoolyard,
voices of play and excitement that ring sad
in his ears like hymns at a memorial.

Before he was married to this chair,
he would take pride in guiding young ladies
across the dance floor, their glances lovelier
as the evening grew darker.

How slim their waists were, how fragrant the smell
of their hair. Their hands were so soft.
Now hands touch him as if he has an infectious disease.
He wonders why he joined.

It wasn’t for love of country; it wasn’t for defense of flag.
It was for her! She thought he looked godlike in dress blues.
Yes, it was to please her! Now her eyes pass from him
to the strong men who are whole.

He will spend the remaining years in this place
he refuses to call home, and take whatever orders
they may assign. He begins to feel the cold,
wonders why they have not come for him for dinner.

The Meeting


Before the first faintest shadows
of morning light, he walks in a dream
through a jungle of despair, happens upon
a tunnel, like one many years before,
but this one feels different.

No sounds of mortars pounding
from above, no monstrous anger
of the guns. No blood, pooling on
the surface, staining walls of this cave.
He cannot hear the cadence of his heart.

He comes upon a large opening,
before him, a man sitting against the far wall
too lost in thought to be roused.
As he approaches, the man springs up
and stares at him in sad recognition.

By the man’s expression he knows there is no cause
to mourn. What chance encounter brings
them together here? As if reading his mind,
the man responds, “I am the enemy
you killed yesterday.”

In silence, he stares at eyes void of life
and knows no words of his have power
to heal the wounds of loss and disillusion.
What is done is done! The man lifts his cold,
gray hand as if to bless and with a smile says
“Now, come, let us sleep.”



It is the warrior that fades,
not the flowers. When did I
stop feeling, begin to look down
on the dying, unconcerned?

Was it the first time I felt
the scorching decimation of battle,
the fear of death, not realizing
I was among the walking dead?

When did my eyes grow numb
and my ears go deaf to sighs
that grew into moans?

Was it the thought of losing control
over ugly thoughts, a reluctance
to share my pain with those
I thought would never understand.
When did I lose imagination,
become dense as stone?
When did I stop caring, not only
for others, but even for myself


Death Watch


His bed positioned to give him view
through the window. He searches,
with tired eyes, for the youthful fluttering
of magic wings around the feeder.

On a branch above, unconcerned
with the adolescent activity, sits
a blackbird, staring at him.
In silent bewilderment,
he stares back.

Betrayed by the limits of his own body,
he fights a demon he thought vanquished. 
Years have passed, only to have it return
for the final battle.

His daughters have come together,
one from across town, one from across
the state, one from across the country,
putting their lives on hold to do the duties
they must.

They gather around his bed, hold his hands,
warm his blood. They speak to him, invoke
past memories, rouse in him the will
to live, and may save him yet.

His mouth dry, he drinks, with aid
from a straw, leans his weary head back
with a sigh, as one who knows his labor
nearly done. He stares out the window,
the blackbird stares back.

After the Dance


The rocker on the back porch
causes the floorboards to groan
under his weight. He methodically
gnaws his nails and listens for sounds
of loneliness.

In the breathless air outside the house,
he sees muted shapes in shrouds,
not those of brothers lost in battle
but old men
who died a slow, natural death.

He prays for no more war—he can still
hear the soft, quiet, persistent thud
that never ceases, those whispering guns.
Thoughts he silenced all day
again return to frighten him.

He never thought to spend more time
with family. His son had grown up
with a father who could not tell him
how much he cared. His wife had devoted
much of her life living with a person

incapable of expressing any emotion
except frequent outbursts of rage.
He never wanted to expose them to the
horrors of his mind. He now sits alone,
waits for darkness to hide his tears.

The Long Road Home

Veterans Day, a time for thoughts
and heartbreaks, for remembering buddies
whose lives’ chapters abruptly closed
in the rice paddies, jungles and highlands
of Vietnam.

It is difficult to climb above the quagmire
of feelings left from combat experiences,
to rise beyond the pain of death, to try
to find something good to build upon.
He joined the local detachment of the Marine
Corps League for support.

Symptoms he thought had been conquered
through months of therapy seemed to have
resurfaced. Long, sleepless nights, inability
to concentrate on any one issue tormented
his mind. Stress level increased. He thought
about putting an end to it all.

The Day’s ceremonies concluded, he moved
away from the activity, noticed a young woman
with a child of about 9 years coming towards him.
Before him the child offered a piece of paper
on which she had colored a red heart with black
words that read “Welcome Home.”

That familiar phrase without much meaning
this time felt different. When he looked
into that child’s sparkling eyes, something
changed deep within him. He felt a heavy
burden lifted.

Unable to respond at that moment,
he nodded his approval, moved over to
an isolated bench, tears filling his eyes.
His torturous journey was over.
He was finally home.

Mortal Reward                                                                 


Day after day, he treads the same
worn path.  One by one, pleasures pass,
once high held dreams dissolve to dust.
His Vietnam dragon gnawing at his
being drags him downward.

He continues to do the duties he must,
tries, as best he can, to hide fatal changes
wrought by time. Still unwilling to share
heavy burdens that cause him to stumble,
he wears a mask of acceptance.

When age has laid its hand upon
the heart, and good friends begin
to have their name added to the Wall,
he looks at joy and sorrow
with the same degree of trepidation.

But here, in a garden beyond hedges and
gated trellis, a bucolic world dwells, a cloister
against the everyday gloom and despair.
Once inside, he luxuriates within a fragrance
of renewal.

Among the many quaint delights—pansies
with smiling faces and daisies gently lifting
their slumbering heads—from blossom   
to blossom, regal workers with powdered wings
tend to the future.

He closes his eyes, smells the earth,
so still and peaceful, he can hear
flowers singing in the late
afternoon light.

He feels renewed.


Future Hopes


One by one they make their way
to the front of the meeting house.
Some by themselves, some with
their parents. All have been here

They form a group sitting on the floor
or on the one step, some vying for
the same spot. Soon, all are ready.
The lesson starts, energetic hands reach
for the ceiling, eager to respond.

Within the circle are sons and daughters
of life’s hope for its future. They look
upon the world with solemn eyes and find
many things extremely odd. He knows
that as long as they remain, they are ignorant   
to the shortcomings of others.

But leave they must, to nourish their own
thoughts and opinions and uncover many islands
among a sea of wrongs. He fears that some,
full of innocent patriotism and the need to do
their part, will jump at the chance to wear
the country’s uniform.

He prays that they will not fall prey
to the trappings of combat. That policy
makers will finally learn how to reconcile
differences without resorting to war.
That they will fare better than he and
not return home with a head full of PTSD.