Bamboo and Oak

It was meant one day as his coffin,
this box of hewn oak, sanded and oiled
til it gleamed like the moon sailing high
off a black satin ocean.

He liked to plan ahead--
liked the feel of wood, smooth as a woman's
body would feel under his someday,
he once told me.

An odd one, this brother of mine,
his room jammed with time lines and lists
neatly writ on yellow lined paper:
marry at age 22
baby at age 24
house at age 26
company president by age 35

He never did come back from Vietnam.
A POW, one witness said.
His time lines drifted by, mark
by mark, till, one day
I inherited the box.

Now, nights when I sense ghosts stalk my room,
I open the lid, climb in,
press cool wood against sweaty back,
imagine him, lying the same, under green,
skin taut across bone, skeletal,
scratching 'death' on his bamboo timeline.

Pris Campbell

Fireweed Journal Fall 2006

Art: Moondance by Alfred Gockel
     courtesy of

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