Poetry | September 01, 1997


Those puffy clouds in the Rocky Mountains

could be gunfire, another time and place.

Before this planet spins us back home to the plains,

dozens will die by rockets or cannon fire,


puffs like clouds the last skies they will see.

I heard explosions often in Saigon

and the rapid pop of rifles, but high over jungles

I saw only distant puffs and fire, silence


except my own breath and chatter in my headset.

Even when Kelly exploded in mid-air, no others heard,

only a blip that disappeared on radar screens

back at Da Nang. The earth turns green again,


no matter what. Outside our cabin, magpies clown

and crazy hop for worms and lazy bugs, sluggish

under a thawing, Colorado sun. Last week,

two campers had their throats slit in their tent


not ten miles east. We never heard a scream.

The world will be the world, springtime or not.

Our oldest daughter’s forty and a day, and we are wiser

only by repute. The cost of living past a war


is personal. Feelings are cash stashed in cigar boxes

and not invested, no access by the Internet.

Only an elk calf knows how its neck feels

pierced by a puma, how nothing matters when fangs


bend it staggering back, unable to scream

or breathe. Nobody needs to know, but if they could,

they’d trade. Nobody’s degree of pain has been felt

anywhere, nobody’s loss is ever this severe.

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