Dan Bellm


        After the men had
eaten, as always, very
	fast, and gone — I thought

	of them that way, my
father and brother — the men —
	not counting myself

	as of their kind — the
time became our own, for talks,
	for confidences —

	I was one of her, 
though I could never be, a
	deserter in an

	open field between
two camps. Even my high school
	said on its billboard,
	 Give us a boy, and
get back a man, a wager
	that allowed for no

	exceptions, like an
article of war. Gay child
	years away from that	

	lonely evening of					
coming out to her at last,					
	of telling her what 
        she knew already
and had waited for, I’d sit
        in the kitchen with

	her after clearing
the meal away, our hands all
	but touching, letting

	a little peace fall
around us for the evening,
	coffee steaming in

	two cups, and try at
ways of being grown, with her
	as witness, telling

	the truth as I could —
which is how, one night, that room
	became a minor,
unrecorded battleground
	of the Vietnam
	War. I think she knew
before it began how she’d
	be left standing in						

	the middle with her
improvised white flag, mother,					
	peacemaker, when I
        said I refused to
go; never mind how, I’d thought
	her very presence,

	her mysterious
calm, would neutralize any
	opposing force, draft
        board, father — it’s not, 
we know, how that war came to 
        pass. For years I’d still

        call her at that hour,
the work done and the darkness
        coming on, even

        all those years when Dad
was the one who’d come to the
	phone first, and then not

        speak to me. Twilight		
times with her, when a secret
	or what I thought was

        one could fall away
beneath her patient regard,
	though I would never						
        manage to heal her
hurts the way she tended mine —				
	those crossings-over

	to evening when the
in-between of every kind
	seemed possible, and

	doubt came clear, because
she heard, and understood, and
        did not turn away.