Old man in Chinatown, leaning on your elbows

over an antique sewing machine

I see from your ceremonial robes

and the tassel on hat, you are Manchu

At first glance, I first thought you a manikin

staring blankly ahead into this busy street,

eyes black as cast iron

Did you lose a young wife

at the end of the Qing dynasty

as I did mine to madness for fear

I would be lost in the Vietnam War?

The faded insignia on the shoulder

of my well worn army jacket,

remnant of the war on my back

from my days in Tay Ninh Province,

reads, “Manchu,” 4th of the 9th Infantry,

but I’ve never seen a real one

until I just now happened upon you

One day when the rip in its sleeve

begins to let in the cold

I’ll bring it to you for the wisdom

of the thin threads that hang

immutably from the needle

of your pointed chin