Born During Vietnam

I was born in 1972
when the drafted were
fragging officers, rolling
grenades under cots,
because going on patrol
was pointless.

Raised by teachers who
listened to Joan Baez,
had us play earth ball. That
world was better than agent
orange cancer, napalm blasts,
M-16 bullets and exit wounds.

They spoke of peace,
harmony, we held hands
and sang so many songs.
This land is made for
you and me, and it’s
alright to cry.

In the closet I still saw
my dad’s green Marine hat
that he wore on Veteran’s Day.
We never spoke about the war,
what to say to a ten-year old
kid about sand bags, and
hearing loss?

But he took me to the
memorial, we touched
names, our dark shadows
together in the wall.

Hiroshima

smudges, they became smudges, places where people
used to stand, sit, exist, before the blast, easier to 
see shadows than the melted faces, missing eyes

enola gay, little boy, happy nursery rhyme in the sky
where men dropped the end of life, bulbous war container
children in the death zone like charcoal burned with no grill

truman’s august angst, questions like grant’s total war to 
conclude inferno, force bushido to surrender their young kamikaze
suicide desperation, a nation’s emperor unwilling to stop suffering

until finished, after nagasaki, inception of nuclear era
destruction, non-fiction, we know, we know, but better
to kiss strangers in streets than think of erasing future’s time

Kentucky Fireflies

All is stillness in Kentucky woods
where fireflies flicker, earthen stars,
one, then another and another.
With my son, we get to sit and stare
together into glowing darkness,
watch floating journeys. He clicks our
flashlight to say hello, then asks me
to stay close before summer slumber.
Breathing softens, he falls asleep.
I lie next to him for many minutes,
let life be at ease. With dawn there
will be another day, but for now this
is all, this is everything.

Moroccan Sahara

In the backseat, we must be going 80 mph, reverberating Berber music like Salat, ritualistic Islamic prayer with drums, voices, sintir strings plucked, boom from the old Peugeot’s speakers, permanent Sahara hair dryer heat fills my nostrils. We left Merzouga earlier in the morning, before that, the Atlas Mountains, Azrou, Fez, Tangier. The road is gone, only sand, like after the first inches of snow have fallen. We stop at the edge, no billboards, no little tourist kiosk, nothing, only a thousand miles of granular fragments, beaten down quartz, dolomite, calcite, sand pixels. I touch its wildness, primitive, uncontainable, not a Tonka truck home, not the domesticated box from my childhood backyard, it looms, immense with dry waves of undulating silence. We walk into it alone, like swimming past the ocean breakers, together, apart. Speechless, it has absorbed our words, sun pulsating, the desert almost asking us to quietly join it, forever. Human shadows elongate, planet rotates, heat ebbs, darkness, then stars. They appear first one by one, little white births, souls of the night sky. Then a torrent, a blanket of speckled light, countless orbs above, total blackness below. I think of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust, children who died. Never thought much about heaven before, alone, surrounded.