la sale guerre
the chemist works at a pharmaceutical company now,
and lives in Princeton. the prices are high here, but
the history is nice, tamed by awe and the high weeds along
the cemetery trails are kept in place by purpose, university
gates swing wide open to the traffic and students are always
talking someplace, no matter where he goes.
the girls like his accent and
he could have any of them his
graying hair and dappled eyes the
stuff of momentary dreaming, but
he turns away from their hungry
fingers, tips all painted and red
lips pulled to unconscious smiles.
he does not like to listen to them
laugh. he does not like anybody being
so sure of themselves.
his grandfather died during the monsoon season,
only a photograph now; maybe imprinting allows for
the break of time, and he remembers being young, asking
papa about all those letters home, wrecked in mud and
anger, the jungle of imperial reckoning flocking to roost
in a comfortable apartment.
father always said "laissez mourrir l'affaire d'elle même en sérénité"
and that was france, too.
the chemist found his own empire of uniform and
battle, the hot sand blown heavy in his face and faraway from
any fetid wasteland, growing things too wild in their desperate
push and the training was worth it, the schooling well enough,
the outcome of killing just another moment in time; history
was never his strongest subject
now he lives among the americans, who are too young to
have much guilt; the people here love their soldiers, bedeck
the parks in yellow and light candles beneath the jet-flare, men
on television talking back and forth over the subtle variance,
honor and mercy and intent all the same; they have their jungles,
the chemist figures, but in antiseptic quiet, colors washed out
and given vintage worth so that no one carries much anger anymore.
he does his work
he drinks some nights at a local bar
he speaks french to the cleaning lady,
who was born in port-au-prince and has
children there waiting for her
he has a scar above his left eyebrow, and sometimes when people stare long enough, he wants to tell them the truth about it, the truth about the knives sent overseas, the truth about all those beating hearts wading in darkness, down river-runs and sunken deeper than even the widest desert could evaporate.
like grandfather in Indochina.
nothing ever really ends; the echo is louder than silence.