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.