Upon Seeing the Face of Just One Vietnamese Girl

Those faces…they linger
Like ghosts in some long lost place
That only God knows
That only I wish
I could forget

They flash back
Like sun on silver
Like lost pennies found
Washed up on some beach
After finding their bottom
Only to return to where they started

Where with bent backs
They culled and hoed their rice
Working as though tomorrow
Wouldn’t come unless they gave
All they had and more
Yes more, even their lives

And in one lonely girl’s blank face
I saw all that 38 years could never forget
In her eyes there reflected
So many young men
Lost, hoping to find a moment’s peace
That would take it all back
All 18 months they barely lived
Till the day they die

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Blinded by the Noonday Sun

So hard
the afternoon sun beat down
Forsaking all shadows
Blinding us to see
only what is illuminated
What is known
And missing what it hides

So hard I try at times
to see life as it is
All the things I deny
Life’s impermanence, unpredictability
imperfection, only partial accessibility
Even in the best of light
Granted by the penetrating noonday sun

Some say try harder
to see more, to see better
Use the light to focus your mind
Perhaps we should not try so hard
Instead open ourselves, like a blossoming flower
And stop worrying about light, what we see
Then light’s meaning changes and so do we

Memories of a Dear Uncle

Stoney
The name of a man
I never knew growing up
But Uncle Hank talked about nonstop
Like some freight train
Coming and going
Without scheduled stops, and
Most importantly, without even a destination

I was curious–about Stoney, my Uncle Hank
And of course what came before all curiosity
Something deeper
Taking us to the ocean’s bottom
Something today that still keeps me up
Well past midnight
Well past all memories

I think of the Antler’s
So many years later
A bar, a place where working men hung out
And dreamed about something larger
Than the lives they lived
The woman they married
The children they fathered
Brought into the world
Like cold rain on some nondescript Sunday night
After seeing their mother
In that hideous, souring smell nursing home
That even death avoided
Till the very last moment

Stoney doesn’t matter
Not now
He’s long gone
He was just a reason
For my uncle to dream
Past the reality he lived
My uncle, childless
Wished for his own
But none came
A man who dropped dimes, and sometimes quarters
Into our sweaty palms
As we stood on the porch
And waved goodbye
Before he walked slowly up the street–
The same street we played on
The same street my uncle died on
And the same street I left
Moving on beyond the dimes and quarters
To some place else
Some place now
Where time grows short
Walking much faster than my long gone uncle
Who now plays with Stoney
In the side yard of grandma’s house
A place I desperately try to remember

When the Owl Calls Your Name

The owl was calling last night
Somebody’s name echoed through the dark still forest
I listened for awhile to hear him again
But only silence rang through my ears

When the owl called
My heart shrank with fear
Praying it was not my name
But another’s that he called

Most don’t hear the owl’s call
Until it is their time
Until it is their name
Echoing through the tall dark trees

Those who believe
Say that the owl doesn’t know
Whose name he calls
Only he who bears the name knows

There is no mistaking
When your name is called
We always hear it
Then, it is our time to go