ANOTHER WAR

Think of the summer of 1950, of the last summer of laughing together;

 

of the black, broken nubs of my grandfather’s teeth, the grandfather who fled Kaiser Bill;

 

of my father aboard ship in the Pacific in the 1930’s during the Great Depression;

 

of him on a battleship during World War II;

 

of me hiding in the shade on a curb under giant elms arching over Terrace Street hearing my mother cry inside the house, pregnant again with a sixth child;

 

of Joplin, a toothless man in a striped cap, shouting from his gothic truck in a voice mined from a tin can, “Trash man! Trash man! Haul ye trash! By gol, I’ll haul yor trash!” and wondering if he lived in a hous or in his junkyard truck;

 

of going as often as I could to Salty’s store to buy bubble gum, to see Salty’s wife, a tattooed French woman with smeared lipstick in a strapless top and a dark mole on her right breast, the forever laughing woman he brought back from Paris after the parades through the Arc de Triomphe;

 

of horses pulling bread wagons, the last bread wagons in America, their urine blistering the pavement, the stench so potent we held our noses until the next summer storm;

 

of my father at the breakfast table before work streaking his plate in bright yellow yolks and beef brains with the crust of his toast, shaking the newspaper at my mother in her bathrobe in the kitchen, his voice sick with shock and alarm, shouting “Marie, there’s going to be another war!”;

 

of the sweltering night in July when my father signed the certified letter ordering him to active duty for the third time in his life;

 

of my mother crying about the brilliant red rash between her thighs, the temperature outside one hundred four, humidity as high as it could get, no money for the doctor’s office;

 

of when I peeked to watch him rub her yellowish swollen stomach, whisper with each soft circle, “Marie, it’s going to be all right… we will pay the bills…we will not lose the house…”;

 

of when I heard him in his sleep, repeating the same word, a word I didn’t understand then, a word I now repeat as an antiphon to his litany, a word I sounded out with him slowly in each of its sickening syllables, “Pan/mun/jom…Pan/mun/ jom…”;

 

and of the summer of 1969, the rocket streaking across the wire at Tay Ninh Base Camp, my face against the red dirt, seeing in a flicker, hearing in a crackle and among the screams, that the war he feared in those endless nights was not his war but the wars to come

 

 

2018-12-03T23:04:12+00:00