A Gathering of Bones

My body would be a basket
On the fields outside Danang.
Dark hair woven, wound down past
Breasts, 1968, just another flower
Faced girl, I watched a young boy
Named Brian leap from an ivy-covered
Rooftop, ripped draft card, the army
Surplus jacket on his back rose as if
Into a cape, all caught flame,
Ignited, became some sharp-tongued
Blade swung up against night sky,
I swore I would never forget
I could not testify I ever
Witnessed his feet touch ground,
National Guard all around
My brother somewhere south of
The DMZ, jungle rivers cut
Deeply into letters home
I could not even imagine, I swore
I would never forget Christmas
Cookies posted in plenty of time
To Pleiku, Dakto, Hue, Quangtri,
Khesan, all gingerbread men
Every one transformed into crumbs
My brother-in-law came back intact
Though his mind shook, then and now
Theory insisted he toppled, one more
Piece in the rowful of dominoes,
I swore I would never forget how
I did not receive jade
Earrings I was promised from Saigon,
Shanghai, just a friend, I fell instead
In love with the quarterback,
He played smack into a
Wheelchair, I swore I would never
Forget legs, how muscles atrophy
Anything below the waist may never
Beat again, the heart, however,
Never forgets how to break
Once it has found its own
Particularly lonely way, I swore
I would never forget
How I learned how to hate
All leaders, no matter their names
Began with L, B, J, even Madame or
Henry, Ho, Diem, a Thieu or an R,
Did not these have parents like
Victims to tell them to stop.
Stop it all this very minute.
Return to your rooms, do not
Come back out until you have
Learned to play right, I swore
I would never forget
How I loved and so how I desired
To lay my own body down over
All that was left of your own
Brother, lover, dissenter, friend,
Among the canes and the rushes,
I cannot gather you all up.
No matter how much any man
Loves a woman, in return,
The womb cannot heal.
Fingers cannot knit back together
Severed limbs, my body over those
Of two children is not enough to
Shield them from shrapnel,
The exploding land mine,
A directly dropped napalm bomb,
I swore I would never forget
January 30, 1968, the Tet, happy
New offensive, yet another new
Beginning to the end but
We all go down together
This time, a grown woman
I could tell you stories about
Lifetimes spent falling to
My hands, my knees, clenched sponge
Poised to clean up the spill
Blood leaves a stain
More often than not, the wound
Soaks through all that would ever be
Loss can never be rubbed out.