“After Saigon” by Carl Boon

The life my father led on the boats

so foreign
so full of fury

distracts me from my own.

I tell him I am tossed and haunted,
too, my skin has bruised

from errant wood. 

But of course I haven’t lived it,
I can’t understand

North and South
America and not America

his specters of death receding
then approaching once again.

I misplaced my mother’s glasses.

I mistook her shoes 

for the stray cats leaning
against the butcher’s legs. For years

I believed my mother 
didn't love me. War makes angles,

flurries of bedside words. 

She smelled like 
the absence of the beautiful. 

No one knows if I’m alive.
No one knows the day I died

in the fish-seller’s off Hai Ba Trung.
They recovered my trousers.
They wept at my shoulders.

Bad and lonely men abound

North and South
dismal and full of grace.

They buried the bodies 
one by one and left me glowing

to tell a story.

Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.