John Dorroh



Vietnam never died.

My brother did. American

bombs melted him while he

was teaching English

to skinny kids whose ribs

vibrated when he asked them

to repeat part of the alphabet.


All we got after that

was a slim black ash tray

he’d bought at a market in

December…and a letter

from the President saying

Sorry about that.


In 1971 I sat on a cold living

room floor watching the draft

people pull letters and numbers

from big gray capsules. A lottery

of sorts. There were no prizes,

just one-way tickets to

the jungle. I prayed that I

would get a high number,

like 238. That way

I could go to college and

become a teacher like Bob.


In 1976 my students could not

find Vietnam on a labeled map.

It was not their fault that the system

had failed them. Meet them where

they are and pull them up a notch

until their ribs vibrate when I show

them how to type their own blood.

The Corn Behind Your House

I can no longer see the back of your house

for the corn,  growing tall in rows that match

the curve  in the road.  It’s yet another diversion,

unplanned I’m sure, yet effective in its own way.

Before its dominance, I could see the cars parked

in your drive, whether you were grilling, and if

the grass needed to be mowed. There were so few

secrets there under the long pines and oaks, just

a few walls for definition. I knew my place.

Summer doesn’t last forever, and soon the ears

of corn will wiggle free from their golden brown

husks, dehydrated tassels waving in the breeze

like worn-out, colorless confetti, dry lifeless stalks

that some poor farmer will have to cut, leaving

an exhausted, barren field of gray dirt.

I will round the curve and see your house again,

the cars whose drivers remain unnamed, the cats

and the rusted metal rooster, the Mardi Gras beads

draped across the boughs of the trees, reminder

of parades and parties eight months ago. You never

took them down; you never do. It’s just the way you

are, the way you like to hide your house behind the corn,

rolling up the welcome mat until you decide it’s time.

Published 2-6-18

John Dorroh taught high school science for more years than he cares to admit. He used writing and reading strategies to help his students discover science principles and concepts, and he wrote with them in and out of the classroom. He’s had poems published in digital and print journals such as Dime Show Review, Suisan Valley Review, and Poetry Breakfast. He’s had one book of flash-fiction published (99 WORDS) and a sequel in the making.