My best friend of my early adulthood served as a medic in the Vietnam War. Although he never carried weapons, he saw their carnage all about him: in the motionless, silent violence of amputated arms and legs; in heavy bandages scarlet with fresh blood; and in the wild eyes of the lucky yet maimed survivors, eyes which would never again know the peace of normalcy.
Although I know he trusted me as much as he had ever trusted anyone, he never said a word about his war experiences. When I told him he could talk and I would listen, if he ever needed to get anything off his chest, he would simply look at me and break into an almost imperceptible smile. He never even spoke about the “jungle rot” which gnarled his toenails, visible only when he wore his beloved Mexican huaraches. He was one of the gentlest, most caring souls I ever knew.
Only once, when I and his wife (who was also my friend) were alone, she queried whether she could tell me something in strictest confidence. I replied, “Absolutely.” She then told me about the countless nights her husband had awaken screaming at the top of his lungs; about his night sweats so profuse they saturated and stained their bedclothes. Only out of concern for her personal welfare, I asked if he had ever been physically violent toward her, and she said she would never talk about that even if it happened because she loved him more than life itself.
The characters and events in this collection of poems are solely derived from the author’s creative imagination. Any ostensible reference to an actual person or event in these poems is completely unintended.