I look at the photo
Our meeting 36 years ago, this month.
Your face in black and white.
The well worn jacket took the brunt
of Hanoi’s freezing, humid winter.
I remember your modest pride:
Remembering the final attack in the morning hours
You rode in sitting on the battered tank
You showed me the map
Red arrrows indicating
How thousands of battle hardened soldiers
entered the enemy’s last stand.
Soldiers so young, their eyes too early aged
through years of endless combat
Bodies like walking skeletons from years on jungle rations.
The victorius sons and daughters
of Nam Dinh, Thai Binh, Hai Duong, Hoa Binh, Ninh Binh
and countless other places far up north.
Thousands were left dead along the Ho Chi Minh Trail
still mourned by another army of grieving relatives
looking for the remnants of Wandering Souls
roaming the land of their ancestors
I knew you had gone to war at the age of 14
You answered the call from the school teacher
who had become a famous general to liberate his land
Your entire life was spent in a war without fronts
You shared with me the fruits of victory
with a smile so beautiful, I almost cried.
I did not imagine that a war hero could be as modest as you
You gave me no clue of the bitter fruits waiting to poison you in peace time
Not a single hint of merciless struggles among brothers and sisters.
Could it be you did not know what life had in store for you
A different kind of suffering, bloodless and all the more painful
You left it it all behind
You were lost to former comrades, friends and family.
You watched them for decades, from afar.
Bitterness became your trademark for all to see
You passed away in foreign lands
In peace, I wonder?
Or will I meet you soon again
A Wandering Soul in the streets of Hanoi
Looking for your name
tbp, Hanoi 04/21