Vietnam split our boyhood…

John Collard

… like a thunderbolt severing rock into separate spheres

You were too eager to escape
the cross-fire of your parents’ divorce,
the night when your father’s skull
crashed to the Beach House floor.
I called Emergency
corralled weeping sisters in my car.

I moved in earnest spheres (as you left to serve the nation),
dripped red paint onto campus posters,
resisted the draft in crowded courts,
while mothers scattered mice from handbags
and girlfriends sang of peace.
I even played Miss Napalm before unsuspecting shoppers.

Yet we both survived the war:
you too squeamish for combat,
deployed to an orphanage
where you fell in love with children
you had to abandon.

I graduated into progressive marriage,
wrote theses about violent dispossession,
fathered children
and sprinkled pacifist genes
on every bedtime tale.

Somehow things were never quite the same again
as I surfed the waves of radical chic
you meandered through toxic love affairs
then disappeared from my rear-view mirror.

You found me again quite recently
but it is hard to glue splintered pasts together:
my righteousness is too entrenched,
your pain too palpable.

And now, decades later,
you are on the combat trail again
against homelessness, and the dispossessed,
diabetes and depression amongst rural men.

Suddenly we are together again like those boys in the history class
alarmed by past atrocities,
dreaming up better worlds
and wondering how we still connect.