WARRIOR

Without leathers, he’s but a man
Irish face, tan, thick waist.
But garbed in medals, head-rag, boots,
he’s Genghis, Grant, Hannibal –
thunder rolling on a Harley.

Still a warrior 40 years on
jungles long gone – no Cong to fight,
he defends in statehouse, hospital, VA
his band – most dead by 64 –
and others from more recent wars.

Cigars like old rags stain his hands.
He smells of man: smoke, sweat and musk
sleeps poorly, dreams of violence each dusk.
The price of war’s eternal vigilance
perpetual keeping score.

published on http://www.vietnamwarpoetry.com/cpcynthiamsheward.html

HARD GRACE

Hair like liquid onyx falls past her face
while she works over the fingers of her customers.
Her skill is hypnotic to watch as
deftly she forms each perfect nail
then paints it like fine china
only swiftly. This is commerce, not art.
Day in, day out, she breathes dusty air through a white mask,
accompanied by the drone of her Dremel file
and saves money to return home.
Her sleep’s still broken by nightmares.
Her entire family died in the war. Of this she never speaks.
When she speaks of home, it is only of its beauty and of old friends.
A dog-eared tome of Thich Nhat Hanh rests by her chair.
She works hard: plans, saves, yearns.
Her daughter, born American, has no desire to live in the “old country”.
She has her own dreams: college, a young man, children – her dreams
hold no room for quaint villages, palm trees and unexploded ordnance.
Soon she’ll be pregnant.

What profession will Iraqi women adopt when they arrive here?
What tools will refugees from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon use
To wrest grace from the jaws of “Shock and Awe”?

 

Published in Friends Journal February 2011

Photo Credit
Contract Between Two Trees
Tay Ninh Viet Nam © Truong Hoang Huy Ngan Ngan Truong
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