Walking Point

Terry Hertzler
Horizontal close up of a baseball.

He’s probably 13 or 14, matchstick thin, 
dressed in black pajamas like so many 
Vietnamese, flip-flops, thick black hair:  

but startled now, wild headlight eyes. 
(He’d been walking the narrow jungle 
trail, rifle casual over his shoulder, like  

a 14-year-old carries a baseball bat, 
when the American soldier stepped 
into his path.) And the boy stands  

frozen for a moment, then drops his 
weapon and runs. The soldier snaps 
his rifle to his shoulder, sights square  

on the boy’s back, then hesitates. Do it
he thinks. But in that second, the whisper 
in his head—half-remembered words  

from childhood wedged for weeks now 
in some itchy corner of his brain—begins 
its tuneless buzz: tongues of men,  

tongues of angels, sounding brass, tinkling 
cymbal. And as the boy vanishes, he lowers 
his weapon, no longer a soldier.

Terry Hertzler has worked as a writer, editor, and teacher for more than thirty years. His poetry and short stories have appeared in The Writer, North American Review, Margie, Literal Latté, Nimrod, and Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology. He has published numerous chapbooks as well as two books of poetry and short fiction: The Way of the Snake and Second Skin. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.