We entered through the South China Sea
to taste the jungle;
young with flat stomachs not yet ruined with fear,
and hard faces with smooth, optimistic skin.
The hissing, acid stream of monsoons
are many seasons past.
My hair turned gray,
and I like to walk in the shade of redwoods.
But not he.
He is not yet home.
I wonder if his face is wrinkled?
Are his stomach muscles
pouched in middle-aged comfort?
I call to him,
and memories call back—
of the sweet oil smell of a weapon freshly rubbed,
or of some playfulness at basecamp.
For that instant
I feel suspended,
holding to a tent post at Bien Hoa with one hand,
straining to hear his voice.
and I diminish but
words do not.
Sometimes, I feel an urgent wish to tell him
that we are much like brothers,
as if we were like two boyhood summers,
or as two tropical vines still joined.
from his book Moments Around the Campfire with a Vietnam Vet
Červená Baraa Press, 2010
used with permission of the poet