Saturday, August 9, 2008

4 March 1937 - 19 March 1973

Black Eyes

Uncle Kenny
never made it back
from Vietnam


stabbed to death

(a 36 year old civilian, living in Saigon, not even a soldier)

no one said much about it at the time
no one really mentions it anymore

to me he was only ever a Kodak memory
a fuzzy picture of a thin man,
a drink in hand

he looked happy
in a snapshot of time
as small as the particles of silver nitrate and halide salt
that had come together in a darkroom


beyond the flash white smile,
the darkness was there and not just on the edges or in the background
but permeating the entire good-times-abroad stage scene
with a not so subtle nod to Death Of A Salesman

all of it, less than a second of his 36 years

but i know this second, even if i know nothing else

was he married to a woman from England?
did he have two daughters?
was he divorced or separated?

i remember he visited us once
and i gave up my bedroom
and slept in a sleeping bag in the basement
(but my mother says that was somebody else,
not Kenny, just a business associate of my father's
having some marriage problems)


the truth is, i only know this moment,
the underlying ennui running to the ends of the earth
to get away from an alcoholic father, a sickly childhood,
a Dakota horizon full of skeletons in coveralls

and this,

the aftermath,

i know

my father
sitting alone
for hours
in a chair
in our living room
with the green shag carpet
quietly crying


the next morning
when he came to the breakfast table
the bags under his eyes
were swollen beyond red and appeared black
like he had been on the losing end
of a heavyweight boxing match
but it was Kenny who'd lost his fight
with life

six months later
dad's father died of a heart attack

he didn't cry

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