Looking at a picture . . . and seeing the past . . .
|The photograph is old and tattered,
Worn from frequent handling, faded,
With salty spots of water and ancient dust
Slowly gathered by the passage of time.
Terribly young and vulnerable,
The soldiers are tall and handsome.
They smile, squinting solemnly into the lens,
Silently holding their rifles and their fear.
The multi-colored uniforms in shades of brown
Distort and hide the shapes of their bodies,
As they are meant to do, to protect them
From the death that waits in the jungle.
Behind them, the massive bulk of the aircraft
Vibrates quietly, quivering and waiting. It waits
To receive its cargo, to receive the men and
The parachutes it will drop into the jungle.
The men are young and, with their hair
Extending below their collars and their eyes
Quizzical and dark, they stand on the edge
Of the abyss and gaze into the darkness.
Today, in silence, I move my fingers softly
Across the picture and quietly wonder
Where, like butterflies or descending eagles,
Did they come to earth and what waited there for them?
What did they see? What did they do?
Alone, still curious? Alive for the moment,
But looking into that fearful darkness?
Where did they die in that distant jungle?
Sighing, I return the photograph to its place
In the album, back under the four black tabs
That hold it. Reluctantly, I close the album cover
Over my father's still-questioning face.
When he stood before that airplane,
I still slept safely in my mother's body.
When I was born into the brightness of life,
He had already moved into silence and darkness.