Vietnam wasn't just over there,
I tell you, hand you that photograph.

Ship barely home to Pearl Harbor,
it's the night of our wedding party.
Our lives have already begun to unravel
behind us but we don't see it.

The mouth of Vietnam yawns wide in the shadows.

The Petty Officer's wife is to die
by her nephew's hand only three weeks
after the shutter snap; Sharon is gone
in a car crash two months later.

Stan stands, arm over Sharon's shoulder,
drink and cigarette in one hand, so certain
she will be in his tomorrow and in as many
tomorrows as he can ever imagine.

Nobody thought about 'forever' in Vietnam.

Our Best Man, four years later, rapes me.
He forces himself into my warmth
when I sleep overnight on their couch,
en-route to a conference, hand hard over
my mouth whispering 'shhh shhh' as one might
soothe a child awakened from a bad dream.

Did he mistake me for one of his bar girls,
selling her soul for drinks and a dollar?
Is that why he told his wife, still my best
friend, it was consensual?

Our friendship died with that lie.

Betrayal, distance, divorce...our own post
Vietnam wars eroded what we felt, that night,
would glue us together in our celebration
for new beginnings, safe returns.

We didn't think friendships would loosen
as easily as a ship slips her lines
when the horn blows for cast off.
We didn't think strangers would replace
friends huddled so close, our smiles
infusing the room with magic.

Pris Campbell


In Outlaw Poetry Network
summer 2012

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