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A Hum in the Living Room
One morning Daddy, just home from Vietnam,
came in the living room and sat in his chair.
I sat waiting on the shabby stool,
hair clippers in my hand.
I turned the clippers on
before handing it to him.
It hummed like honeybees.
He jerked back against the chair.
It was the first time
he'd heard it hum in a year.
How terrible to see his face turn red,
and hear him gasping.
He gradually straightened up,
asked me to hold my head still,
and considered the part he wanted to cut.
I turned around on the stool,
dreading the next haircut.
Grandmother on the Porch
A month after Father left us in khakis,
she came to visit us.
Words were fewer than usual.
All day she sat on the porch
facing the thick field of wavering corn.
When Mother went into the house to cook,
she turned toward me.
She whispered, "I keep thinking
of your Daddy in Vietnam."
I pushed my nine-year-old hands into my pockets
and said, "Me, too. I want him
to take me fishing again."
She dabbed here eyes and said,
"My son must have us on his mind."
Mother came to the door and stood,
with flour on her hands.
"If Daddy can't be here," I said,
Why can't I be him?"
Grandmother's eyes were a blank.
My Father Leaves for Vietnam
When my father let loose my mother
from his outstretched arms,
he stared into her eyes,
as if wanting to see his pain.
I had never seen him cry.
His eyes dammed the water.
I felt my mother's heart drumming in me.
He looked down and
whispered in my ear, "I'll be back,
don't be afraid,"
then he turned away.
He boarded the Greyhound.
I held my mother's hand and looked
at him climbing the steps.
He sat and hung his hand out the window,
I watched the bus fade.
I have never understood why he had to go,
although my mother cupped me in her arms,
as if she still could reach my father.
What Was Said on the Porch
When I was nine
my father stood
on the wooden steps of our porch
while the leaves of the maple
at the roadside
fell in whispers.
He thoughtfully asked my great uncle
to take care of Chicken.
Father had always called Mother "Chicken."
"Of course," Great Uncle said,
"I'll look out for my niece"
and glanced down at me.
I wanted to answer I'll take care
of Mother, but I knew my place.
"I don't know what Vietnam will be like,"
father told him, "I just don't know."
Great uncle turned his gaze
to the wind chimes that hung from the roof,
hat tilted the way of the wind,
and cigar burning red.
Father's eyes were red from crying,
his hands tucked in his pockets
as a change of air moved
between Great uncle and him.
Lenard Duane Moore is a U.S. Army veteran born in 1958, son of a career Marine who served two tours in motor transport with the 5th Communications Battalion in the Republic of Viet Nam. The poet lives with his wife and daughter in Raleigh, NC. His poems have appeared in print since the early 80s, recently in issues of North Dakota Quarterly, The Arts Journal, and Pembroke Magazine. He has worked with a variety of societies, organizations, and agencies to promote the arts. His poetry has appeared in translation, in Spain, Italy, China, and especially in Japan. Two collections are forthcoming: Forever Home, from St. Andrews Press (Saint Andrews Presbyterian College, 1700 Dogwood Mile, Laurinburg, NC 28352, 919-277-5310), and Desert Storm: A Brief History, from Los Hombres Press (PO Box 63279, San Diego, CA 92163-2729, 619-234-6710). Moore's brother fought in an artillery unit in Desert Storm.