I struggle with contemporary war poetry. It either seems like imagined images from a distance, or trite nonsense. Jack Henry, the American Poet, has written the best contemporary war poem I have read for some time:

a short Vietnamese lady chats me up

as she cleans my feet,

trims the nails,

finally asks if i want a polish

.i say number 88,

she smiles and says,i like that one too.

we talk about her childhood

in Da Nang province and growing up in a small village

with brothers and sisters,

many cousins, many aunts.

she expresses sorrow about Afghanistan

and i say nothing,

the old, white middle-classed male

frozen in place.

fingers too?

and i smile, faintly,

suddenlyaware of my place,

my ownmortality.

number 88?

very pretty.

Karen’s and various womenstare briefly

the giant man with sparkly blood red finger- and toenails

an anomaly in any situation, shuffles out the front door.

i sit at home, watch Afghanistan collapse,

watch men, women, and children fleefor their lives,

watch people fall to their deaths

from the sides of American transport planes.from under my sink i retrieve a bottle ofnail polish remover,

lock the front door,

watch ghosts hover nearby,

as the imageson my television

never change.

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