NANCY CHEN LONG
Reunion: Day 3
At breakfast, you turn my palm over
looking for a life line. "Another shot?"
the waitress asks. She reminds me
of my mother, who, like you, had a brother
lost to war. Three refills
of coffee later, you attempt a nervous laugh
and say "For the first time, I think I feel
safe." I picture that frayed photo,
black-and-white, your father,
a boy almost, stationed in Viet Nam,
head shot, close up.
Empty pack of cigarettes
strapped to the front of his helmet,
the words 'Lucky Strike' on his forehead,
the concentric circles of the logo—
a bulls-eye. Your father's stare
into the camera, a dare, a wish.
We cut through the clear,
kayaking at a swan's pace,
use the small curved sail
when the wind is opportune,
pushing behind us. Hours
the summer we had
before your first deployment:
picking berries, the nettles
my reach would always find—a sting
unbearable for such a small thing
as a touch.
Headfirst, we dive
into the bubble-springed water.
When we first kiss, you whisper peach.
The taste of peaches. On your skin
the hint of an orchard.
The beach at midnight.
You think you see a shooting
star. I think I hear the haunt
of a loon, across the lake, faint.
"I might re-enlist," you say.
I nod, understanding
what it is to crave
a thing that kills,
the lower chamber of my heart
a welcoming auberge to its fire.
Nancy Chen Long works at Indiana University and lives with her woodsman husband and blue-eyed dog in a small cabin in the forested hills of south-central Indiana. She received a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant, and project manager, and more recently earned her MFA. As a volunteer with the local Writers Guild, she offers poetry workshops and coordinates a reading series for poets. She writes poetry-book reviews and interview poets at readwritepoetry.blogspot.com. You'll find her recent and forthcoming work in Sycamore Review, Cold Mountain Review, RHINO, and other journals. Her chapbook Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone was published by Red Bird Chapbooks in 2013.