Letters Home
by Michael A. Maggiotto

He was raised on a breakfast
of biscuits and gravy,
where Jesus was praised
on Sundays and Wednesdays,
where basketball was king
and football was prince,
where the flag was saluted
at school every morning,
and gray men drank beer
at the V.F.W. and the F.O.E.
He wrote to his parents
from boot camp,
from A-School,
after being lei-ed in Oahu,
after Neptune welcomed him
across the equator,
past the island chains
of his father’s war,
all the way to Olongapo,
where he bought a Rolex
after too much whiskey
and became a man
in the arms of a brown girl
with whom he did things
he was sure no one
he knew had ever done.
He wanted to tell his hoopmates,
his father’s beer buddies,
even his mother’s quilting group,
but he knew that he couldn’t.
They’d brand him a sinner.
So he waited
until a week had passed
in the winding brown sweat of the Mekong,
on a swiftboat to nowhere,
stopping fish boats,
fetching Marines,
shooting black pajamas and sugar cone hats,
and burning thatched huts by the shore.
He killed commies for Christ,
like the Catholic boy said,
and that’s what he wrote
in his letter back home.

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