poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Pamela Uschuk



The forty-third anniversary of the TET Offensive
and we are still burying evidence
trip-wired by an enemy we cannot see.
Is it change that breaks its frozen toes
on morning’s door sill? I want to see
what a metal rabbit looks like, furred Humvee rattling
a Kabul street or the hare of hunger
uprooting rusty mortar casings
in a valley west of Da Nang, where my first
husband was ambushed by dragon fate, his stomach unstitched
by machine-guns, a quick bayonet stab.
...................................................Two days he dreamed between
steaming earth and death's scabbed hands
swirling a bamboo stream he couldn't reach
before Medevac found him.
................................He survived only three years, his Purple Heart
unable to airlift him out of terror
that strafed his constant fever to death.

In D.C. we meet two Viet Nam vets,
the Valenzuela brothers, Mexican Americans
about to be deported because they can’t prove
which side of the border they were born on.
One of them wears the Bronze Star
for valor on his decorated chest.
Spider-white scars from Agent Orange devour his hands.
He says he has no strength in them, cannot
hold up the flag much longer, asks the gunmetal sky,
Where is my Commander In Chief?

We leave the aging vets in dress uniform,
at attention in ice rain and begging justice
from the sparse audience on the Capitol steps
while Chinese exchange students snap souvenir photos.

What changes will the Metal Rabbit bring
clanking in on its armored back legs—
such tough prey, invincible to hawk talon
and Kalashnikovs—
................................its multi-colored back
snagged on the hooks of the inhumane, ears cocked
for a compassionate mate.


Pamela Uschuk is the author of six books of poems: Finding Peaches in the Desert (Wings Press, 2000);One Legged Dancer (Wings Press, 2002); Scattered Risks (Wings Press, 2005); Without the Comfort of Stars: New and Selected Poems (Sampark Press, 2007); Crazy Love (Wings Press, 2009), winner of a 2010 American Book Award; and her newest release, Wild in the Plaza of Memory (Wings Press, February 2012). Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Fort Lewis College, she directs the Southwest Writers Institute.  Uschuk spent many years teaching creative writing to indigenous students on the Salish, Sioux, Assiniboine, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Tohono O’odham and Yaqui nations in Montana and Arizona.  Editor-In-Chief of the literary magazine Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts, she lives in Colorado.  Uschuk held the John C. Hodges Chair as Visiting Writer at University of Tennessee, Knoxville during spring semester 2011. 


Published in Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 2012.