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THE VETERAN

Page 21
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<< 20. El Salvador Today22. Letter for Maude >>

Second Thought for Nguyen Van Hung

By W.D. Ehrhart

[Printer-Friendly Version]

 

You watch with admiration as I roll

a cigarette from papers and tobacco.

Hanoi. The Rising Dragon. 1985.

You can't do what I can do

because it takes two hands

 

and you have only one, the other

lost years ago somewhere near Laos.

I roll another one for you. You smile,

then shrug, as if deformity from war

were just a minor inconvenience.

 

Together we discover what we share:

Hue City. Tet. 1968.

Sipping Lua Moi, we walk again

familiar ground when you were whole

and I was whole and everything around us

 

lay in ruins, dead or burning.

But not us. Not you or I. We're partners

in that ugly dance of men

who do the killing and the dying

and survive.

 

Now you run a factory: I teach and write.

You lost your arm, but have no

second thoughts about the war you fought.

I lost a piece of my humanity,

its absence heavy as a severed arm -

 

but there I go again: those second thoughts

I carry always like an empty sleeve

when you are happy just to share

a cigarette and Lua Moi, the simple joy

of being with an old friend.

 

Reprinted from Just for Laughs by W.D. Ehrhart, Vietnam Generation & Burning Cities Press, 1990


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