by the stain of another man’s blood turned black
beneath cracked and yellow fingernails. I have no
marching through mud, no shielding my face
from sand and sun and the burden of dropping bodies
from my shoulder like one woven red sack of grain
after another. I even lack memories at the knee
of a salt-and-pepper man who stops to refill the smolder
in his pipe and hearing him turn quiet as the room fills
with the heavy scent of cherry tobacco.
I do have Dale, the codger who kept my rusty Valiant
running so I could burn rubber every afternoon.
I have his marble-mouthed stories of killing Japs
bare-handed and the shame he felt in his pride. I have
Brad, my ex-wife’s ex-husband, shot dead after Vietnam
and Agent Orange and taking the police chief hostage with a knife
for poisoning his daughters through the school’s drinking fountains.
I also have Rob, my youngest step-brother. I begged him
not to run off and join the Army the minute he finished high school.
But he so loved the uniform.