Tara J. Pearson The 2River View, 9.4 (Summer 2005)

Only this date on the back,
scrawled in your hand, ink yellowed
by more than thirty years, and
in the picture your arm thrown
around a small Vietnamese girl,
six or seven, rifle slung over your shoulder,
the way you crouch beside her, grinning—
it‘s almost fatherly.

The next photo of a man dead on the road,
the remains of his head resting in soft chalky gravel,
one arm cast above him pointing
aimlessly at the rice fields beyond.
The contrast dull, washed out,
as if the sun that day was so bright
it was hard to tell the beginnings and ends of things.

At nine I watched you cast out into the river, gossamer line
singing an arc over the churning surface,
morning light fell, shattered by trees, across your face.
I can imagine us there--so clear, displaced,
a snippet of movie as the channels change—
I watch you talk, how the fish got their names
what they look like—the slick shimmer of words: carp, catfish, bluegill.
I listen as the boat is pulled slowly by shifting current.
The world seemed so close—
wrist resting on the edge of the boat,
fingers grazing through sky and water.

How much can a man share with his daughter?
Now, almost five years after you are gone—
the light falls uninjured through the window;
flashing across the photos, it reflects off this page in your journal,
I read again, this time aloud,

I killed a gook today. I wish I could get a hundred.
God I miss you. I want to come home.

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