Thompson’s Boots

      God is surely / patiently trying to immerse us in
      a different language.

      —Denise Levertov

Five klicks south of Phuoc Vinh, Val at my side and my first visit since the war, I’m searching the old firebase—grown back to jungle after thirty years—thinking of Thompson the morning he returned from R & R in Hong Kong, boasting he’d slept with five women in three different languages. I’m looking for the spot where I’d found his boots that next morning after the sapper attack—Thompson vaporized by the satchel charge, except for his feet and ankles, still inside the boots—his olive-drab cotton socks turned perfectly to secure the laces—the right boot upright and the left on its side inches away, and I remember how carefully I had lifted them, one in each hand, and placed them inside a body bag with someone else’s body already there.

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