The Pentagon Papers
On planes he always looked for the empty seat next to the prettiest woman
engaging her in long overseas conversations as he watched the sun break
through clouds over Hong Kong, flying as far away as possible
from his childhood, moving with his parents from one southern Utah town
to the next, the grandson of a German coal miner in Salina.
He spent his summers in the Saigon office, noting the body count add up,
not knowing who to tell the press was lying about the numbers,
and quoted Kissinger quoting de Gaulle at the dinner table
the night New York Hospital gave sanctuary to the Shah of Iran:
“Countries don’t have friends, they have interests.”
The first night home from his trips the table was cluttered with gifts
he brought from Cairo, Saigon, Cambodian villages before the bombs.
Later my mother found letters with a photograph of a banquet
at the Cambodian Embassy, his French mistress at his side.
Who was she? A voice on the phone, “I would like to speak to— “
“He died last week. I’m his daughter. Can I—?” The phone clicked.
His best advice: Live at least one year in a city
and board the plane last because you know any seat is yours.
I dip my fingers in—the jeweled water blesses my hand
or wounds it in another language. My father spoke in French
about a Laotian palm reader, how she stroked his hand open,
traced his jagged heart line and whispered the names of his lovers.
She told of his father’s first marriage, a secret his mother denied,
then wrote the date of his death on paper he never unfolded.
My father’s story breaks along the tide line.
Buried with a gold bracelet too tight to remove
in temple clothes worn only once at his wedding,
he had slipped off the other gold band long before.
The ring glints in a tide pool that wears seaweed like a second skin.
Hermit crabs glance off anemones folding shut into a fist
and a bottle cap’s fluted edge winks in sunlight over glass.
Danielle Dubrasky has poems forthcoming in Under a Warm Green Linden, Main Street Rag, South Dakota Review, and Chiron Review. Her work has also been published in Terrain.org, Sugar House Review, Cave Wall and saltfront. Her chapbook “Ruin and Light” won the Anabiosis Press Chapbook Competition, and Red Butte Press published a small art book of poems titled “Invisible Shores.” She teaches at Southern Utah University where she directs the Grace A. Tanner Center for Human Values.