Philip Dacey


Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC

I know this ground. I walked here once before,
alive. A septic smell, still. In this place,
tents, and my nursing, all through '64.
Or call it mothering. I looked in the face
of dying boy after boy. But now this black
winged wall, and other ghosts, their strange words:
Da Nang, Khe Sanh. But I know soldiers' talk.
And these dates. Sixteen years? Such a long war.
With the sun now come the living. A stream,
as if to board a ferry. Alone, or two,
a family, and all--they're reading the names.
Just that. America's great reading lesson.
I can be at home here. Mingle. Listen.
And lean against the wall, waiting for you.


Philip Dacey's eighth book is The Mystery of Max Schmitt: Poems on the Life and Work of Thomas Eakins (Turning Point, 2004). After teaching for 35 years in Minnesota, he recently moved to Manhattan's Upper West Side. His website can be found at www.philipdacey.com.


Published in Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 2006.