It is now Spring and the ranch is alive with flora and fauna.
Quail, rabbits, robins, and towhees flit through our grassy
five acres sequined with apple blossoms, daffodils, iris, and pansies.
The deer and our four horses graze with an occasional nod toward
the rancher who carries her muckrake. A flicker taps the top
of our horse shelter like a jack hammer then looks up.
The silence lingers.
"A Mall and the Night Visitors"
May 11, 2010
Today is Miss Xuan's birthday and in her honor I post this paragraph from my memoir:
The memoir covers the year I spent in Vietnam as a Marine Lieutenant and three return trips beginning in 2001. During the Vietnam war I worked with Vietnamese school teachers and my return trips were to visit two of those teachers. The following paragraph comes at the end of a chapter that chronicles my first meal in Miss Xuan's home. It's July 1966 and Miss Xuan lives with her family in a small village north of Danang. The meal is bun bo and after the meal I receive an old cobwebbed pepper mill as a gift because I admired its unique qualities.
"Miss Xuan and her brother walk me out to my jeep. I wave goodbye and drive the bumpy road toward MASS-2. I'll write a letter to my wife, I say to myself while I keep an eye out for anything unusual at the dark edges of the road. I'll explain each detail of the evening. I'll send the pepper mill home. My wife will read the letter to our daughter and they will both enjoy my evening's experiences: the meal, the books on the shelves, the orangey brown color of the walls, the subdued lighting, the photos and miniature bananas on the altar, my pistol and web belt that sat too close to the altar, the dishes on the table, the celadon teacups, and the smiling, inquisitive, honey colored faces of my hosts. This visit to the home of Miss Xuan was a gift, like the old broken and cobweb-strewn pepper mill that sits in my lap."
The marigold, so frail in early spring,
Becomes a blazing foothill full of color
To edge the garden by Midsummer's eve.
They suffer through the slugs of April's rain
And bloom those stunning orange cushions
So flamboyant in their simplicity.
Patula, Everett Dirksen's plant of fame,
Became his cause célèbre: "National Flower"
He argued in the House and in the Senate
For years and years and years to no avail.
But still these aphid blocking blooms
Give each of us a sun kissed smile.
So, may the Senator's belovéd flower
Aye, finally achieve its finest hour.
The retirement home sits to my left
On my walk to the 24-hour Fitness club.
Today, at 6:00 AM, a man,
Heavy and bulky in his wheelchair
Parked out front,
Stares, expressionless, at the crow
Who pecks at a McDonald's bag
Flattened on the street.
A cup of coffee sits within the man's reach
On top of a brick wall around a flag pole.
He glances up at me as I pass and says,
A monotone, "Mornin.'"
Then looks at his cup of coffee.
"Good Morning," I say with some enthusiasm
And continue on my walk
At no more than seven paces, I hear,
I turn my head to see if the remark
Was addressed to me,
(Not sure exactly what was said).
"Are those pants, Carhartt?" he says,
With a smile makin' his face look bigger.
"Yes," I say and slap my raw sienna pants,
"Those are great pants," he says
With that smile now a stretchin' out his cheeks.
"They are," I say, "Great pants."
And continue on my way,
With a smile now a stretchin' out my cheeks.