On those days
his name is called
for their lost voices.
Her perfumed letters ask
for money and sympathy,
the wife who demands
more then he can give.
In the dust confused afternoon
his mouth splits into what might be a smile,
not for her letters, but theirs-
his brother’s fourth grade class.
Here, some become addicted to opium,
he to this monthly packet of thirty letters,
their drawings of fighter pilots,
dotted lines from muzzle flash to target.
They promise boxes of 22’s,
proclaim his heroism,
send St. Christopher medals,
a plea to be careful over there, Billy.
Alone on the tarmac in a chopper’s shadow,
he savors the topmost letter,
x’d and o’d with hugs and kisses,
stashes the others in his backpack.
There he holds together
with rubber bands
the only goodness
he still knows.