How He Survived

That summer, my father dug graves by hand,                            
twenty-five dollars each. Vietnam
was sending back bodies faster than
they could be buried.  He was in college
in a dry town in North Carolina.
Moonshiners sucked white lightning
from mash and heat. Ski slopes
on Sugar Mountain cut like rivers
through the trees. Nixon promised
to bring more boys home, said
I want peace as much as you do,
but they kept coming in boxes,
flag-draped and rolled off planes.
Years later, I watched my father go quiet
when Neil Young climbed the stage
to sing “Ohio” in front of the same flag        
and I knew he was back there,
working for hours in the mountain’s shadow,
waist deep in a grave that could have been his.