A soldier returned from a war
was how my P6 spelling book put it I saw
cripples with tin cans for coins
in dusty scarlet, back from some spat of Empire.
Later I became aware of buildings
built in squares around a courtyard
where every room looked down
to a fountain
rinsing and bleaching the light
assiduously as the women
who in folded hats like wings
washed clean their wounds.
My erstwhile stepfather was one
for whom Vietnam
was a constantly recurring dream—
the jungle inching its tendrils
into his lungs until he becomes
half-man, half-vine, asphyxiating.
The word itself has a click in it.
It halts before the ending.
Boats left stranded in trees.
The ones that survive are amphibian.
As I speak, there is something muscled
and bloody in the sink
the boy young enough to be my son
spat out and I can’t look.
I don’t know how he got inside my house.
The stereo is playing Buckets of Rain
over and over again.