la sale guerre

the chemist works at a pharmaceutical company now,

and lives in Princeton. the prices are high here, but

the history is nice, tamed by awe and the high weeds along

the cemetery trails are kept in place by purpose, university

gates swing wide open to the traffic and students are always

talking someplace, no matter where he goes.

the girls like his accent and

he could have any of them his

graying hair and dappled eyes the

stuff of momentary dreaming, but

he turns away from their hungry

fingers, tips all painted and red

lips pulled to unconscious smiles.

he does not like to listen to them

laugh. he does not like anybody being

so sure of themselves.

his grandfather died during the monsoon season,

only a photograph now; maybe imprinting allows for

the break of time, and he remembers being young, asking

papa about all those letters home, wrecked in mud and

anger, the jungle of imperial reckoning flocking to roost

in a comfortable apartment.

father always said "laissez mourrir l'affaire d'elle même en sérénité"

and that was france, too.

the chemist found his own empire of uniform and

battle, the hot sand blown heavy in his face and faraway from

any fetid wasteland, growing things too wild in their desperate

push and the training was worth it, the schooling well enough,

the outcome of killing just another moment in time; history

was never his strongest subject

now he lives among the americans, who are too young to

have much guilt; the people here love their soldiers, bedeck

the parks in yellow and light candles beneath the jet-flare, men

on television talking back and forth over the subtle variance,

honor and mercy and intent all the same; they have their jungles,

the chemist figures, but in antiseptic quiet, colors washed out

and given vintage worth so that no one carries much anger anymore.

he does his work

he drinks some nights at a local bar

he speaks french to the cleaning lady,

who was born in port-au-prince and has

children there waiting for her

he has a scar above his left eyebrow, and sometimes when people stare long enough, he wants to tell them the truth about it, the truth about the knives sent overseas, the truth about all those beating hearts wading in darkness, down river-runs and sunken deeper than even the widest desert could evaporate.

like grandfather in Indochina.

nothing ever really ends; the echo is louder than silence.