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On Learning That Ho Chi Minh Once Worked as a Baker at the Parker House Hotel in Boston by Robbie Gamble (Poetry Winner)

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Robbie Gamble's poems have appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Naugatuck River Review, Stonecoast Review, and Poet Lore. He works as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston.

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Nothing more iconic 

than a Parker House Roll

but Ho was just

a clean-shaven young man 

in exile     set on learning 

rituals of the Western kitchen

kneading     proofing    shaping

flinging battalions of dough 

into coal-fired tunnels

and now I press my thumbs

into a crescent-shaped crust 

it resists      breaks open

spilling a steaming waft

of    mud      charred foliage

suppurating flesh

and then the musty grief

that filled the church

for Dev Cochrane

who lived down the street

shipped out     then shot in the throat

when his platoon was overrun

classified as MIA

after two years waiting 

his mother     couldn’t 

stand it     held a funeral

I was just a kid in a pew

listening to his sisters sob

impatient to get home     

for tomato soup and crackers

in our wainscoted kitchen 

the tock of the cuckoo clock

the TV snapped off     for meals

none of those icons

Johnson’s doughy jowls

Ho’s steamy wisp of goatee

while we ate

just a flat awareness

that some things barely grasped at

might forever stay      missing

like in all that later

documentary footage

the absent     stench of combat •