I spend hours in my shoebox
of memories: dogtags, carved ivory Buddha
and photos where Iíve been, things Iíve seen.
A shot of surf in Cam Ranh Bay as it rises up
like the mountains imprisoning Phu Cat, one of me
and Tolbert stoned on Laotian Green, our friendship
now fading like these black&whites. Then one I took
from the chaplainís bulletin board of orphan girls
at the base picnic in the shade sipping soda, a respite
from bullets and bombs. One girl wears
long wispy hair, sandals made from tire treads
and a traditional white silk ao dai. She playfully
glances back at the camera and I wonder
what became of that smile. Ao dai girl,
did we corrupt you with Coca-Cola, hot dogs
and Jimi Hendrix? Did the V.C. torch your village
for scrubbing our floors? Were you among
the thousands of refugees on the road begging
for a bowl of rice from retreating convoys?
When the fall finally came, could I have found you
at work Saigonís shadowy opium bars, or worse yet,
its innumerable whore houses, sweating under
nameless G.I.ís showering you
with their worthless currency of compliments?