Fragment of a Letter

Tommy, all the short timers say

they’ll write when they get home.

They never do; they

disappear into a future

we’ll never see

with a girl we’ll never know.

The face of the girl

who keeps coming to us

in dreams

fades quickly in morning confusion,

makes us sick with envy

wondering who she’s loving now.

 

I won’t be like the others, Tommy.

I won’t forget to write.

I’m going to write you

every time I’m back over there,

on days I can’t think straight,

days like today in this autumn light

so red and so orange

I think the trees are crying.

 

In this red autumn

they’re burning fires

making the air hazy and distant

like a day on the rubber plantation.

The smoke burns fresh,

the aroma of a newly lit cigarette

in a wet pine grove.

 

When I start laughing to myself

no one sees what’s so funny.

They don’t know it’s you I’m laughing about,

you who could always make me laugh.

You could hardly move your mouth,

and you said, “Now look at my fucking face.

Now I’ll never have a girlfriend.”

None of us could stop laughing,

not even the medics lifting you

into the chopper as fast as they could.

 

Back here everybody’s laughing

in a different kind of world.

I don’t know what to say,

who to tell it to

or how to make sense.

I move with the crowds,

don’t recognize any faces,

don’t know the words to their songs.

 

I watch the news,

waiting for you to reappear

in backpack and fatigues,

waiting to hear you speak again.

And I don’t know where you are

or how to mail a letter

to a dream of a war

I was in a long time ago.

That’s all you are, Tommy,

a dream, just another beatup

dragged down fucked up dream

I had one humid year

when I was too young to know better.

 

Don’t get the idea

I forgot to write,

because I will finish this letter

one day soon

and put it in the mail.

 

 

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