two soldiers

war had taken part of his mind
most of each arm
yet he smiled when a kind lady dropped a coin
rolling in a circular motion in a shallow stainless-steel bowl
stopping only when bumping into crumbled dollar bills

he guessed from her voice that the coin would roll clockwise
war had taken his eyes
so it was part of his game, to guess, as he thanked her
and caught a whiff of perfume as she walked away
maybe a lawyer? he wondered

his dog, tha thứ, lay at his side, an old yet faithful companion
only tha thứ’s eyes moved as another coin struck the stainless-steel bowl
a child, the old man guessed, based on the slight noise the coin made
a young child with kind parents
his expressions of ‘thank you’ were multi-directional
wishing to give thanks to all involved

the next coin was almost hushed,
and dropped from an even closer hand
as if placed onto the bottom of the bowl
falling flat, rolling in no direction
“thank you,” the old soldier said
somehow he knew the coin was given by a fellow veteran
“bạn được chào đón” he heard the words back
followed by a strong accent proclaiming, “you are welcome.”

“your dog’s tag, i like it.” the man with an accent continued
tha thứ…in your language is ‘forgiveness’
so i say to you, fellow soldier
“cảm ơn bạn rất nhiều,”
that is “thank you so much.”

tears fell from the sightless eyes of the american soldier
tears also from his vietnamese counterpart
“cảm ơn bạn rất nhiều” said the vietnamese soldier
repeating in english, “thank you so much”

the skinny arms of one old soldier squeezed tightly
around the other as yet another coin was dropped
this by a tall, fast walking man who did not slow at all
counter-clockwise the old soldier thought
as he managed a weak ‘thank you’ through the lingering hug
tears, he thought, are kindred
tears, whether from a soldier with no sight
or his one-time enemy, able to see his brokenness
are kindred