I begin with this cone-shaped vortex
stuck to my sweat sock.
I send its shadow back
into the Vietnam war zone.
At Khe Sanh, my friend received his head wound
For him, I begin an offering
to the cardinal directions.
Facing the sunrise, I hold an egg
and moving as slow
as a deliberate salute,
I raise the white shell and sing
to relieve his anger over miscommunication.
Facing the south pole,
I slice open an acorn squash
with its fall colors of yellow,
brown, and green. I offer it
as a sign of respect for the wounded.
As the sun sets,
I venerate the life cycle
by cracking open the walnut
before I hold it up to the western entrance of eternity.
Now the grave will blacken
like the walnut does as it ripens.
Facing North, I complete
the first portion of this ceremony
by polishing my offering of the Nickajack apple,
containing the indigenous gift of mental clarity.
I perform this ritual four times
so that the four winds will soothe
the memory of his mouth
with its cracked and saliva- covered lips.
Gasping, he asked
if he was going to live.
Since it’s bad manners, I resist the urge to inquire about my prayer.
Instead, I remove the cocklebur
from my sock.
It pricks my finger as if
revealing that I can’t give him more
than what I find between
the thin thorns of this seed.
Therefore, I leave to him my ears
in order that he will always be listened to.