First Jump

Once in a helicopter in Bao Lac
he hovered over a thicket of bamboo.
He said he couldn’t hear a thing
over the chopper, his sergeant’s voice
inaudible, though he saw
his mouth move, Private, Jump.
My father said he looked for a clearing
on the ground, watched other soldiers
step into the air and disappear
in grass so tall it swallowed them.
He told me it was an ocean
that moved in waves, an unknown.
Those were his words. He said
he didn’t know how deep it was,
how long and how hard he’d fall
through the reeds, or what moved
down there — some snake called two-step.
When the sergeant pushed him
there was no way of looking back,
just freefall, and then

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