I’d nearly forgotten that room
but lately, things appear
in the narrow, dark space
between door and linoleum:

Fingertips of palm fronds;
fragments of jungle fatigues;
love beads we wore under them.

Acrid, burning wreckage
of a helicopter delivering mail
and Christmas dinners to a hot LZ.

Foul, strange aroma
of mama-san improvising
meals out of fish heads and rice.

Thunderous roar of F-4 Phantoms
climbing in tandem, urgency in their contrails,
distant varumpf of bombs in mountains.

Sing-song complaints
of mothers moved
from ancestral villages,
their children clinging
to them like jungle vines.

Startled starlings erupt
into the safety of an empty sky
at my best friend’s funeral.

Rifle reports from the gleaming
honor guard, me on my way to war,
him, on his way to a cold permanence.

His mother’s sobs in the frozen air,
my exhaled breath in January sunlight.

Today is memorial day.
There are picnics, parades,
Wal-Mart is having one of their biggest sales,
and the car dealer in town is offering double rebates.

My hand is on the doorknob, and I hesitate,
wondering if whatever lives in this room
is tame enough now, the pain lessened
enough for me to bear.

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