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
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.