THE MAN WITH NO NAME

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