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A co-worker sent me this New York Magazine article Pvt. Danny Chen, 1992-2011 which moved me to write this poem.

Pvt. Chen was 19-years-old when he committed suicide after terrible hazing and racism. It is sad when lives are cut short, especially under such means.

imageAn Invisible Handshake
by Charity C. Tran

a poem for Pvt. Danny Chen

I only know you
from these words
describing
your story
your life
its end

these words
are ghosts
unraveling mysteries
of why you died
but as invisible handshakes
shared across time
shared across space
they evoke passion
and crusade
they reflect the parents
who ache for you

in your photos I see
the essence that is me
my dark hair
my eyes
in roots that live beneath
a blanket of ethnic similarity
layered over life’s complexity

the altar in your (past) home
described as laying bear the gifts
of favorite American foods
is not decked out
as past altars I have likely seen and lived with
that speak volumes of a culture
that begins a hyphenated identity
it resonates of your life
solidified in colors of
red, white, and blue
solidifying being an American

time has passed
and complacency has set in
we are cloaked in the myth
of a 21st century
of delineated law
that erases border lines
in your absence bears the truth
this is not true

there is work – still – to do

in your silence
voices are charged
speaking
of love
of outrage
of strength
to push against
the force that
no one
should be asked to bear
that you
should never have felt

erasing the lines
of hate
of power
of colorblind lies
is done
with the shaking of hands
and the telling of stories


-cct