My Uncle’s Still In Vietnam
There’s a term to describe creatures that come out late,
but none for me, though I did the same. With a single
word, I can speak of porcupines and kangaroos, deer
and ferrets, jaguars and coyotes. I’m alone, not lonely.
But I assumed I was, feigned interest in mates, wasted
days, seasons. What hob or buck pretends to go into
rut, jill or doe into heat? No longer a fawn, cute as
a cub, strong as a joey, I mourn the misspent time.
I’ve faked what I’ve felt so I wouldn’t be called a stag.
I was still called a stag. I want the clarity of paws and
quills, claws and antlers, tails and hooves. But short
of that, the will to make the remaining light count.
I’ll never know who my Uncle Mack was until
he comes back from Vietnam, and for now,
he’s resting easily beneath the small plot
he carefully picked at All Saints Cemetery.
When he emerges from the foreign foliage that
swallowed so many of his buddies, I’ll learn
why he smoked a pack of Lucky Strikes a
day, refused to eat at Vietnamese restaurants.
When he returns, viny bits of Vietnam atop his
uniform, I’ll know not to ask him if he saw an
F-100D drop napalm on some verdant village,
jungle canopies drenched with Agent Orange.
I’ll also know not to ask what he and his VFW
buddies joked about, cried about, at Post 3792
until he dies yet again and, burying him, I
weep, mourn all I wished to know yet didn’t.