At the War Remnants Museum, Formerly the Museum of American War Crimes: Unknown Soldier

Ask for my connection. I’ll admit, it’s tenuous.
Something about a certain silence in a room

meaning gone, long gone. An uncle
who died young before I was born.

Of course he was beautiful, cocky grin,
laughter caught in his lashes. Black and white.

Airforce pilot. Vietnam. I know he fell
but not how far. But I am here

in the same land from which he vanished.
And here in the city where he was cruel

or crazed, or lost. I’ve grown into a woman
who has killed only by looking

away at the wrong moment,
who says atone and sacrifices nothing

but her sleep. Once I rubbed his name
onto white paper from a wall that held

my gaze, gave it to my father
who tucked it wordlessly away. My father

who never knew war, who draft-dodged
long enough to learn the ways his body

would betray him. In high school
a friend once told me he thought I’d die

young because he couldn’t picture me adult.
Sometimes I feel myself pale into the past

beside him, my face on the mantle aching
youth from my nowhere. Dead

or alive, we grow away from the faces
we flare. Ask the city

for a stranger. Ask the stranger
for the right. This room full of pictures

of what boys like him did
asks and asks: Do you think you are

kind just because you give
away your hands?

*

Erin Rodoni is the author of Body, in Good Light, which won the 2015 Sixteen Rivers Press Manuscript Competition. She is also the recipient of a 2013 Intro Journals Award from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2014, Colorado Review, Cimarron Review, and Ninth Letter, among others.

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