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Second Thought for Nguyen Van Hung
By W.D. Ehrhart
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
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