The Return

Forty years gone, Tommy, so many rains ago

the hulks of abandoned choppers turn red in the heat,

and I have come to take your spirit back with me


The young Vietnamese smile and gawk at my gray hair,

swarm into Uncle Ho’s city on motorbikes

through puddles of stench

for their ration of Socialist hope


The Hotel Rex, where the war was lost,

gleams cool in marble and granite

At the guest information,

the communist seated at the desk,

her hair twisted into tight bun,

asks what I did in the war

and faintly gloats


Out of spite, I want to remind her

of the final score,

three million to fifty-eight thousand,

but hold my fire:


I’ve seen the graveyards of Viet Cong martyrs,

the heroines of the Women’s Union

waving red flags with yellow stars


Gondolas lift tourists up Nui Ba Den

where you lost your face to an RPG


Before we can crawl the tunnels at Cu Chi,

Charlie orders us to watch a fuzzy film

of a VC mowing down Marines with an AK-47;

78 dead, he beams, in less than forty minutes


In stalls along the road,

the inevitable dog and monkey

nip at each other, still at odds,

their masters leering at us from plastic chairs


Nothing left here to fear or mourn:

Time, finally, Tommy,

for us to come home


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