The Return

The uncle, lately back from Vietnam,
Returned, ear dampened by machinegun fire,
His only story that he’d learned to break
The necks of roosters with a sudden crack.

They saw in thought those birds, their mortal run
Around the gravel, limp crests dangling,
As some last fire belatedly grew dark,
A stench of phosphorus smoldering in the air.

The jolt of blood, the click, the bang, the silence,
They come in time for everyone we know
To punctuate the hours that we live
And, in the course of time, to end them, too.

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