When We Finally Arrive Stateside, My Father Gets Deployed To Vietnam

by Nancy Chen Long

If you scarcely arrive to America,
just in time for first grade,
only to have your father sent away,
leaving you and your little sister

and your mother,
who doesn’t speak
English, who can’t read,
who trembles

all the time,
you won’t remember him
leaving. You won’t be able to

recall whether he left
after making you hot chocolate,
the way he did almost every morning
back in Okinawa,
or whether he slipped away at night
while everyone was safely asleep
or whether it was autumn
or whether you ever stopped crying—
because you said you would,
because you promised you’d be strong.

And you certainly won’t remember

if you waited with him
at the airbase, if you watched
the plane fly away,
waved as he disappeared,
then kept waving
to that empty desert of a sky
as if practicing
the stolid art of good-bye,
a skill you’d too soon grow to master.

What you’ll remember
is what he whispers to you
just before he leaves: 

Take care of your mother and sister.


 

Headshot_Author_Poetry_NCLong 20141124

Nancy Chen Long received a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant, and project manager, and more recently earned an MFA. She is the author of the chapbook Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013). You’ll find her recent and forthcoming work in Sycamore Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, RHINO, and other journals. As a volunteer with the local Writers Guild, Nancy offers poetry workshops and coordinates a reading series for poets. In addition, she writes poetry-book reviews and interview poets at readwritepoetry.blogspot.com.

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