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.
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.