The theater of war comes to us, it seems, obliquely; all residue becomes part of the offices of men. I think of my father and how he was spared—parceled, after injury, to Japan and then flown back home without a brother—that was that, and somehow enough. In the context of Vietnam, he seems awkward and incomplete, thus, my father as a literary genre: post-war, pure-conjecture.
War disburses onto us a sense of mystery and inscrutability. To read about Vietnam in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and to think on my father—now ten years dead—in the battle means to encounter a geography he did not necessarily adhere to as a young soldier: Vietnam and America on the verge of transformation, trudge-work, the stories he might have told, what he carried, and “the intangibles [with] their own mass and specific gravity.”
Writing for the New York Times, Matt Steinglass alludes to O’Brien’s modernist strategy as answer to the business of war. The collection’s surreal episodes craft for me a narrative of love—or a kind of love—of shame, courage, etc., which mitigates my father’s silence in this afterglow—a patrimony perhaps.
Bio: Ricardo Maldonado is a poet and translator. He works at the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center in New York City. His translations from the Spanish of Rafael Acevedo appeared in Guernica’s April 2009 issue. Read his last recommendation of the book English as She Is Spoke here.