new Mennonite Life logo    June 2005     vol. 60 no. 2     Back to Table of Contents

Photo of a Young Soldier and His Girlfriend with Hot Dogs in the Park, 1969

by Rachel Yoder

Rachel Yoder graduated in 2001 from Georgetown University with a degree in literature, and has since studied creative writing at Prescott College in Arizona. She will attend the MFA program this fall at the University of Arizona to study fiction. Rachel grew up in eastern Ohio at the dead end of a dirt road in an intentional Mennonite community.

                                        One bite gone & her dull
                    look, her dodge
to avoid exposed details

                                        or touch, no feeling in
                    her balled-up fingers
threading through the warped

                                        ring formed by his
                    beleaguered arm, the one
not gripping the mealy dog as if

                                        it were a severed limb.
                    The soldier - he's captured
in this photo in

                                        camouflage, both breasts
                    patched & ARMY
broadcast on his chest

                                        in stitches.
                    Would this be
my father

                                        had my own not vanished
                    that year, to Gabarone, to
the papayas & black

                                        mamba the school children knocked
                    from a jackalberry to
the Kalahari floor, circling

                                        and shouting Mista! Mista!
                    they danced to avoid
the coffin-shaped head

                                        that darted at their feet
                    then disappeared
down a hole.

                                        My dad - he came
                    with kerosene & poured
it in the earth

                                        dropped a match
                    & the mamba crawled out
& died

                                        on fire
                    at the hands of
a confused pacifist.

                                        If not Africa, then

                                        would my young father -
                    like the Young Soldier -
have stared tastelessly, drug

                                        entrails in his eyes &
                    looked lost, a harbinger
for other slack-fingered fighters

                                        & would my mother
                    like His Girlfriend -
only have been able to offer

                                        to him, a pose, her
                    burnished bangles &
one numb fist?