IN THE HEYDAYS OF HIS EYES
(taut jeans dancing)

An Anthology of Poetry about Being Young and Growing Up
 
 
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THOUGHTS BEFORE DAWN
for Mary Bui Thi Khuy, 1944-1969

John Balaban

The bare oaks rock and snowcrust tumbles down while squirrels snug down in windy nests swaying under stars above the frozen earth. The creaking eave woke me, thinking of you crushed by a truck thirteen years ago when the drunk ARVN° lost the wheel. We brought to better care the nearly lost, the boy burned by white phosphorus, chin glued to his chest; the scalped girl; the triple amputee from the road-mined bus; the kid without a jaw; the one with no nose. You never wept in front of them, but waited until the gurney rolled them into surgery. I guess that's what amazed me most. Why didn't you fall apart or quit? Once, we flew two patched kids home, getting in by Army chopper, a Huey Black Cat that skimmed the sea. When the gunner opened up on a whale you closed your eyes and covered your ears and your small body shook in your silk ao dai.° Oh, Mary. In this arctic night, awake in my bed I rehearse your smile, bright white teeth, the funny way you rode your Honda 50, perched so straight, silky hair bunned up in a brim hat, front brim blown back, and dark glasses. Brave woman, I hope you never saw the truck. °ARVN: a soldier of the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam ao dai: The traditional, white, form-fitting, ankle-length dress of Vietnamese women.

 
 
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