At "The Wall" after the Vietnam Veterans Women's Memorial

She is beside me kneeling & praying & crying;
her fingers touch a name on the shiny, black granite.
She stands up to tell me her thinking:
Terry, my daughter died a nurse in Vietnam.
Now, I am crying & full with grief.

I wonder how any of us get better
at this suffering that we do?
One might think after years of practice
that we would do it better.

Let me say this straight:
Lost in myself, like this woman,
I refused to question any more, but tonight,
in the mirror of white candlelight,
in the monument of names
I rise as she rises in the heavy mist
to embrace our tears of darkness.

As this mother looks up at me,
I capture her with my eyes
to drive out her pain with my stare.
To heal a portion of her darkness
with one word would be to diminish her tragedy.

So I explain to her that I was wounded from the war,
that my friends' names witnessed here
reflect bloody bodies of shrapnel that still haunt me
as her daughter's name haunts her,
that I, too, understand the flowers of a fresh grave,
how the years of repeating my friends' names
against forgetting saved me
& how her courage coming here
was deeper than her sadness.

Preston H. Hood, III

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