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in a nice enough place,

among all those boys with purple hearts,

unable to chew cut up hamburger,

easily swallow spoonfuls of lukewarm soup,

slumped there with others and looked at it.

I leaned forward on a cheap folding chair

outside that nursing home on a concrete strip

in smoldering sun, no canopy overhead,

guerilla mosquitoes leaving welts on my arms.

Never will know the truth of  Larry’s story

about the blast in a Saigon bar,

about the grenade he claimed Charlie rolled in,

bodies everywhere, the explosion

his navy captain wouldn’t put in a letter,

only that Larry stuttered about it

whenever I visited.

Hidden off the main highway

paraplegics pulled as well as they could

at my denim hem for all the attention

they could get, smoking themselves to death,

names not etched on the Wall,

sweethearts off with someone else,

divorce papers filed and finalized,

heads lolling round wheelchair backs,

mouths trying to tell me, I imagined,

where they were from, how they got there,

struggling to make sounds, simple

as Mickey, Jake, Ray…..

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