On those days

his name is called

he hungers

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.



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