Morning in the nail shop,
two Vietnamese women and I
hear a man’s voice drawl
“I want a pedicure, that’s all.”
Men don’t enter here, this world
of polish, lotion – free of fear.
Perhaps we misheard – he repeats it slow
“A pedicure, please, nothing more.”
We avoid each other’s eyes
as he climbs the chair
to perch above the foot bath
a green beret on his unkempt hair.
Is it memory or mercy this veteran seeks or
simply gentle hands on tired feet?
Published on http://www.vietnamwarpoetry.com/cpcynthiamsheward.html
Image – Old Shoes © Zimogljad | Dreamstime.com\
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
Contract Between Two Trees
Tay Ninh Viet Nam © Truong Hoang Huy Ngan Ngan Truong