In Vietnam, skinny Alvin carried an M60 machine gun weighing 25 pounds and humped over a thousand miles. I remember his letters from the big base at Chu Lai, where his battalion stayed when not in the field. He always made it sound like he was having a party over there, but then would slip in how all he wanted to do when he got home was go fishing under some shade at Marble Lake, like he did regularly as a kid —which for him meant before he was drafted into the Army.
"Only this time," he would add, to make the point he wasn't a kid any more, "I think I'll bring some beer with me, and a girl . . . like maybe Janet." I remember that letter especially, that mention of Janet.
There were a few more letters after that one, and then his mom, over in Kinderhook, called and told me Alvin "had got himself hurt" and would be coming home from a hospital in Japan in a month or two. "Home to stay," she said. "My little boy . . ."
Alvin lived with his mom in Kinderhook until she died just a few years ago. Now he lives at a place called Parkland, over in Coldwater, where he has a room and some independence, and where on most fair-weather days you can find him there in a leafy green place thick with elderberry bushes and maple trees.
Janet and I make a point to visit Alvin about once a month; they won't allow us to bring him any beer. We do it anyway, because we love him.
long summer day . . .
launching worms into the pond,
a boy with a stick
by Michael McClintock
first published in Modern Haiku, Summer 2001