When my mother told fifteen year old me
I should write letters to our neighbor’s son
who was away in Vietnam

I somehow missed hearing or understanding
the words fighting and war that connected
him to the nightly gore on the news, and

I can’t remember anything I wrote in my
many, many weekly lines, but I remember
I was just starting to play with words, to
appreciate how poets reach out through mist

but when he returned with an army bag full
of presents just for me, and a look in his eye
that terrified me

I didn’t want to put on the Happy Coat
he wanted me to wear, or ride in his Corvette
or go anywhere he wanted me to go with his
smiling good looks and his big shining teeth

I was done with my duty
I wasn’t ready to fly off
with the letters on the page
or hear his voice
or sign up for, or surrender to
any war that was still coming and going

so my mother spoke to his mother
and I was allowed to return to the
cloudiness of my own illusions