In my first life, I see myself
second daughter to the late lieutenant and his wife,
he a soldier fallen on the front lines of Dong Xoai,
she a concert pianist, now teaching me along with
the neighbors’ children after school. She straightens
our postures, raps our knuckles with a ruler as we mangle
Rachmaninoff. Sometimes, at night when she thinks I’m
asleep, she plays for herself, their song.
In my second life, I see myself
a teacher in the jungles of Mindanao, two months pregnant,
my partner and I marching villagers through irregular verbs.
Typhoons trespass across the borders of our peace, stirred
by the shrapnel of insurgent monsoons. Gunfire.
We dive for shelter, covering our heads and mouthing
prayers in a foreign tongue. Sometimes our prayers are
answered by a different god.
In my third life, I see myself
at the bus stop, sniping with my son, third grade now
at St. Luke’s Catholic School. He wants to bring
with him this morning’s letter from his adoptive father;
I tell him later. When I open it myself on our driveway,
fine sand seeps out, swept into the envelope from the storms
that ring his barracks, a thin stream marking time
until the grains run out.
In my fourth life, I see myself
cursing a vending machine at Dover AFB,
its stark metal denying iced tea for my mother. And suddenly,
inexplicably, my life, all my past lives, come clear to me,
forever framed in that inexorable cycle of reincarnated grief.
My mother takes my hand. An hour away, the transport
from the airfield at Basra drones toward us, draped
in mourning, bearing her grandson home.
Labels: War and Remembrance