by Joseph D. Milosch
We weren’t childhood buddies with a history of playing Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull. We were two strangers pulling guard duty on Skunk Hill.
Under a Y-cloud shadow
slivers of water stream
down blades of grass.
They drop on dirt mounds,
foot prints, a gray stone,
soon the season will change.
What if you hadn’t enlisted in the Army in ’71, hadn’t volunteered for Nam, hadn’t hoped a bronze star would transform you into a 100%?
A gopher’s head in the den’s door,
he is surrounded by five beige birds.
He barks at shadows ringed in sunlight.
And we hadn’t called you a Cherokee, even though you corrected us, ‘Oglala’, if a sergeant from Seattle hadn’t disliked you because you were, quote, “Indian?”
Dropped in the fall, a broad-leaf tree dries.
Its bark, its leaves can’t save it.
How much wood keeps a man warm?
Would it have ever been a practical joke?
if you hadn’t died, if you’d returned from Nam without a scratch?
I dream of a scarecrow in a corn field.
Its dressed in khaki shirt, army pants.
I see two warriors waving, hear a threadbare hero.
What if you hadn’t replaced me at the over sea station? Would it still have taken 25 years to admit,
I’m a beneficiary of prejudice?
In a season of early scents,
orange and grapefruit blossoms.
I roll over, hold my wife,
count the ohs and ahs of my heart.
Happy to be alive, I feel full
with the urge to cry.