Oct/Nov 2017 Poetry Special Feature

Poem for Vietnamese Reunification Day 2017

by Elizabeth Marino

Image excerpted from Raising Consciousness by Roe LiBretto

Image excerpted from Raising Consciousness by Roe LiBretto

Poem for Vietnamese Reunification Day 2017

In reply to Dang Than

Must each generation
have its own war?

My birthfather, a carpenter,
left colonial Puerto Rico
for Chicago. When I began
to sprout from his hands and heart,
he enlisted in the US Army
but never returned home.
Did he help occupy Korea?
Would he have marched for
brown and Black civil rights?
I do not know.

My adoptive father,
son of Italian immigrants,
was said to have served
in the Pacific Theater
during WWII, US Army.
He died with his secrets and limp
shrouded in a fog of dementia.

My favorite uncle told me
stories of a wider world
and urged me to become
a part of it. He was a career
US Army man, until
he came home from Vietnam
for his father's funeral
and never went back.
"It's a dirty dirty war"
he kept saying.

There were questions
I could not begin to answer
as I approached my small
group of Vietnamese female
refugee students in 1976.
As a peer tutor for English and
American Government, we could
only examine one phrase
and one right at a time.

My own late ex-husband enlisted
an a draftee in the US Air Force,
translating code, two days
before his university reinstatement came in 1965.
He would work tirelessly for other paralyzed vets.
He hated jingoism of all kinds.
His own literal spine never healed.
He never asked for what he saw as lost:
the perfect light, the value of his kisses.


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