Lillibet hides in a corner,
drinks splits of something
supposed to taste like champagne,
features stumps of trees and stumps of men
against a backdrop of vines winding round Saigon’s colonial columns.
Alfie’s fraternity brothers pound him on the back,
speak of old times she does not know,
celebrate. Tomorrow he answers Uncle Sam’s greetings.
The bottle feels cold in her hands.
She rubs it against her face.
Leaving the party, she’s happy-drunk.
For now the future’s safely put to sleep.
Without a goodnight kiss,
he leaves her at the gate.
She stands in sobering night air,
listens to the sounds of his old Plymouth
until silence swallows her.
She slips into deeper darkness.
While it’s still black-dark, she feels sick,
stumbles outside careful
not to let the screen door slap.
In the side yard, farthest away
from her parent’s room,
she lets ancient cedars hear
the little she knows about jungle war and men.
He fails his physical. He’s at her house
the next day before supper.
She stays in her room, swears
to never drink again.
When summer’s over,
he stops calling.
Lillibet cuts her wrist
but only a little.
She holds his memory—
a hot stone inside until
one fall day,
while on a smoke-break outside work,
she sees Alfie,
his hair is thin,
his face liquor-ruined.
A woman younger
than half his age cuddles close.
She reminds Lillibet
of her young self.
And she can’t help but think
just maybe the army
would have been good for him,
thanks God he stopped phoning,
can’t imagine why she ever wanted
to face him all the mornings of her life.