Annette Langlois Grunseth
Growing up in the shadow of WWII my brother
grabs a pear from the Green Stamp fruit bowl,
pulls the stem out with his teeth, pretends to throw it,
making hand grenade blasting sounds.
He arranges green army men on the floor for attack and retreat,
plays war games in a fox hole dug into the empty lot next door.
As a Boy Scout he learns survival, camping out
on weekend bivouacs. With Dad, he hunts pheasant,
partridge, and sometimes deer. He becomes a good shot.
Like his father, uncle and grandfather
he grows up to serve in the military.
His draft number comes up at college graduation, 1967.
After Basic Training, he flies off to Vietnam, barely prepared.
He writes home of government issue weapons that jam,
won’t fire properly; they have no rain gear for monsoon season.
My parents buy a rain suit and mail it to him. His letters tell of
living in an APC* as they sweep the jungle, bulldoze through
rice paddies and level farms, dodging snipers and ambushes.
Scouting and hunting skills keep him alive in that jungle.
His graphic letters detail how a bursting mortar
sprays a buddy’s brains across his own helmet.
My brother writes of helping amputate a soldier’s leg that is
pinned inside a mortared APC. He tells me, You have it easy because
you’re a girl, you weren’t forced into war, or that kind of fear.
Maybe I have it easier, but whenever I eat a pear now,
I feel his burden; my guilt ignites,
as the taste of pear explodes in my mouth.
*APC: Armored Personnel Carrier, a combat vehicle used to move infantry in the battlefield.
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Annette Langlois Grunseth, Green Bay, has published poems in many anthologies and journals. Her chapbook, Becoming Trans-Parent, One Family’s Journey of Gender Transition (Finishing Line Press) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Society of Midland Authors Poetry Prize. Her poetry has won awards with Wisconsin Academy Review, Wisconsin People and Ideas and WFOP.