A Minnesota PBS Initiative
Poet of A Lost War
The plane glides slowly
through the clouds.
My heart thumping,
Out the window
a lush green,
white puffs of smoke
in the distance,
landing in hell
seems like paradise.
The door opens
a massive wave
I won’t have far to go
when I die.
I beat on their chests, breathed my air into their lungs and held their bleeding arteries in my naked hands. I watched them suffer. I watched them die. I put them in bags.
I didn’t know their names. They weren’t people. They were gunshot wound lower back, multiple frag wound, traumatic amputation or KIA. I beat on their chests, breathed my air into their lungs and held their bleeding arteries in my naked hands. I watched them suffer. I watched them die. I put them in bags. I took them to a shed. They had names but that was no concern of mine. I had a job to do. I couldn’t let that stuff get to me or I would no longer be of any use.
Beyond The Wire
He hated the damn heat. What was out there beyond the wire? Some evil little man or woman plotting his demise. By day it looked so green and peaceful but at night that all vanished into a black wall. He sat alone not knowing what he would do if something happened. Every little noise made him turn. He could hear the war in the distance. Would it come closer tonight? He watched the flares float along the night sky. AN EXPLOSION! He jumped. It was off to the right. He heard small arms fire. Another flare. He didn’t know what the hell was going on. A helicopter gunship fired into the blackness. The tracer rounds danced in the air, so surreal. He sat and watched too fascinated to be scared…guard duty again in two days. He hated this shit.
Day after Day
Mornings begin in a rosy light brightened by the night rains. You can see as well as feel the warm dampness that clings to everything. There’s a freshness in the air and the dew hangs from the plants. Distant sounds from the jungle blend into a chorus. He awoke between the damp sheets and climbed out of bed and looked out the window of his hootch. It was going to be another long, hot, busy day in hell.
He thought he knew his enemies over there. The Viet Cong. The North Vietnamese. Nobody ever told him that cancer might kill him some day, but it did.
Home Without A Home
I travel with a heavy backpack
strapped across my shoulders,
and a plastic bag of clothes.
When you are homeless,
these are the things you carry.
And tucked away somewhere
are the memories of a war
that are still fresh.
No yellow ribbons greeted me
when I returned home.
Now I soldier on each day
trying to find some place to call my own,
riding late night buses to shelters
only to be rousted out at dawn.
A private first class,
now a second class war veteran
walking the dark streets.
Home but without a home.
Delayed Death Syndrome
Vietnam killed him nearly 40 years after he came home.
He thought he knew his enemies over there.
The Viet Cong. The North Vietnamese.
Nobody ever told him that cancer
might kill him some day, but it did.
He rarely talked about Vietnam
and the war that eventually took his life.
He was 69 when he died from lung cancer,
a result of exposure to Agent Orange.
His story is typical.
He lived the American dream
and played by the rules.
A hard rain fell at his memorial
the tears of veterans falling from heaven.
This story is part of the Spotlight on Poetry collection.
Story Themes: 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 24th Evacuation Hospital, Army, Art, Long Binh, Poetry, Richfield, Tim Connelly, Watch