when his cargo plane took on
a firing squad of anti-aircraft flak
he bailed at ten thousand feet.
when his chute deployed
it nearly broke his neck
and he was suspended
over the hills north of Saigon.
he watched tens of thousands of pounds
of burning mail flutter past him,
down into the canopy like a hurricane
of chain-smoking moths.
there were so many burning letters
that it scorched a cavity into the jungle’s
steamy mouth. there were voices too –
voices in the paper,
voices in the smoke
voices from the jungle
voices of the mud near the Di Di Mao river
awaiting a reply from their light bulb-eyed lovers
back home in Kansas or Texas or Maine.
voices of the artillery squad
pounding out moon craters in the hills
awaiting a reply from their two-star fathers
whether or not, this was good enough
voices of Charlie, slipping in and out of tunnels
whispering, “What’s falling?”
back then, his name was Captain
back then he was bringing light bulb sexy talk
to the muddy trenches, paternal speeches to the howitzer boys,
written on Harvard University stationary.
back then, he dropped five tons of lung cancer onto the Viet Cong.
but he is a different man now.
he talks about himself in the third person.
the 80s are when he finally fell in love,
when he began having kids,
when he could still rollerblade,
when he started losing his hair,
when he ate rabbits that he caught
with his bare hands in back yard.
often, he finds the 80s at the bottom of
a cheap whiskey bottle
and he time-travels back
only to collect good laughs
which he stores in his belly.
he goes back several times, daily
it’s dangerous and it will end someday
but until then he is going to keep going back
over and over until the last time
when he will choose what date to be stuck in
to start over again:
maybe August 21st 1981.
maybe the summer of ’87.
there is not so much room left in his belly anymore.
he remembers things –
he remembers giving his children rides on his back,
he remembers carrying his wife into their first home,
he remembers leaving losing that home
and his wife and their children
because he couldn’t shake of that day in Nam.
he remembers his father, teaching him to shoot his BB gun
and his mother kissing his dad’s mustache.
he remembers a century of holding his kids’ heads above the surf
and taking his wife to drive-in movies.
he remembers the sky was getting dark
when the marines brought him back to camp
after a three-day rescue search.
he thinks about whether there the Di Di Mao
is still floating with nonsense sexy talk,
if the craters are boring the hills with talk about “just come home”
and whether Charlie felt like the smoldering envelopes
landed heavier than napalm because
they were heavier than any bombs
he ever transported.
he thinks about going back to the day prior
and changing the plane’s route,
maybe breaking the dials and compasses.
he knows the jungles and hills and rivers and tunnels
would be quiet then.
he pats his belly and wonders if
there is any more room.
Joschua Beres (b. 1987) is a Texas native of Louisiana French-Creole, Irish, French-Canadian and German ancestry. He has previously been published in Bohemia, Every Day Fiction, The Kitchen Poet by UndergroundBooks and has work included in the anthology Milk and Honey Siren. His website: http://joschuaberes.com.