Before a war we think we know exactly how the war will go. Accountants happily project raised GDP and its effect. Predict each country will adopt a free economy and co-opt democracy who’ll bloom just like a desert rose but that is never how it goes. During war the News Hour lists each soldier whose return is missed and the places they called home, a soldier’s life reduced to loam. No locals named, not friend nor foe who is who? How can we know? The war drags on, a swamp, a mire repeating tours, souls under fire. It’s forgotten once we start wars pay for nothing not a part of their pile of pain and loss yet we ignore the total cost. Lives, limbs and minds are left behind. We're told the same lies every time. The goals and actions are a fake leave ravaged landscape in their wake. Once home, our soldiers dream the war and wonder what it all was for.
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