For my father

                        I wish I could have been there
                        when your chopper floated
                        to the waiting, warring ground
                        of Cambodia. When you bent
                        and exited the injured, hallow bird
                        in ordered, practiced motions,
                        into hostile fire and tall grasses,
                        glowing green in afternoon sun.

                        I wish I could have been there,
                        to note the one-two of your boots
                        on the marsh, the white of your arms
                        against newly soiled fatigues,
                        the black of standard issue
                        against the fingers of a farmer,
                        and everything else you do not recall
                        or were too wild to see.

                        I wish I could have been there
                        when those grasses reached up
                        to you in one of nature’s defiant acts
                        against war, brought you down
                        to that sea of foreign flora, where,
                        for a moment, the only sound,
                        was the bang of breath on your chest.

                        I wish I could have been there
                        as you paused, waited for a pain
                        that did not come, then finally rose,
                        careful, conscious of every part
                        of your body at once, your legs
                        shaking with hurry, eyes aching
                        with sight.

                        I wish I could have been there
                        when you realized you were lost,
                        that you did not know the locality,
                        distance, or reality of the Huey,
                        that you just might be left behind.

                        If I had been there,
                        I would not have been the soldier
                        hit in the leg and running, the one
                        who took you by the shoulder
                        and had you follow his red trail.

                        before that panic even began,
                        before those seconds
                        that would last the rest of your life,
                        I would have wrapped my arms
                        around your twenty-year-old shoulders,
                        tipped my head close to your own
                        and whispered, This way.

by Contributing Poet:     Kristin Stoner   Copyright © 2015
      ( First published in   2015 )

Bio:   Kristin Stoner   received her MFA in poetry from Antioch University, Los Angeles in 2008 and is currently a Lecturer in the English department at Iowa State University. Some of her recent publications include Natural Bridge, Review Americana, and Rose Red Review. Kristin lives in Des Moines, Iowa.

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