Origins Poem

When my Obachan was eight,
American soldiers swarmed like ants over her rock of an island.
The soldiers with their wide eyes and khaki skins
left boot prints in the sand and
on the faces of children.

I come from Kumejima, the rock island
capped in mist and rooted in seashells the size of bloated bellies;
boy soldiers crouched among the banana trees
ambushes beneath the elephant ears,
palms polka dotted with blisters from the fibrous stalks.

I come from helicopters low over the cane,
bending with the weight of June harvests among bodies missing their limbs but
this is not a war poem.

I come from rose bushes pruned with arthritic hands
brush fires rising behind the double wide
taking the swing set into its stomach,
all embers and melted rubber in the morning.

I come from a marketable man
suit jacket tight across hisĀ stomach, pockets packed with children and cholesterol
when his pockets overflowed
he must have started filling his arteries.

I come from a rose bush running rampant
planted over the memory of a little brother with
holes in his heart and his brain and then just a
little hole in the ground to fill with petals and hospital bracelets.

I come from bathtub moonshine and mountain people
from cock fights and Cocke county and ditch weed,
from the long-winded Appalachians
knotting over our southern sentiments like vertebrae
from orange cats with bleeding mouths and
my Obachan with bootprints on her cheeks,
we are all writing war poems.

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