Vietnam #4
(for Tim Page)

by on November 16, 2013 :: 1 comment

There are long lines of sweaty men in olive drab
Moving through a low land forest
Hear the heartbeats, the minds drift away
Angry at girlfriends wiggling on some other boy’s lap
Thirsty for beers opened with church keys
Hungry for Grandmother’s favorite recipe
Sitting in memory’s kitchen eating
Slow light, bite by bite.

They are coming past me now
Detonation wires, helmets, holy boots
The click of wedding rings on M-16 stock
The bandages stark white
Now blood red like smoke grenades
Waving into the moment as the radio calls
The static of the radio, incoming rounds
The slogging in leech water
To come to this pulling of the trigger
The burnt gun powder refuse, flames
The song of the shell casings landing in a pile of little bells
The heart is out of control, the eyes are everywhere
The breath a blacksmith’s bellows
The movements of this chaos, the battlefield of man
Killing man killing man killing man
The long distance display of the portrait of the faces behind gun barrels
Lit up with fires, Michael Herr says,
xxxxxx“Vietnam is what we had instead of happy childhoods.”

The mechanics of the clouds, the brown rivers, the land plowed by bombs
Coughing M-79 grenade launchers burp and burn the woods
They lob explosives into your life
Where brothers in arms carry you, feet dragging
Sips of water, blood wet bandages over your eyes
Over legs torn, mangled bits of a self
Faces point with fingers up the Glory Hill
Daggers of smoke
The soft sharp thud, a brutal helicopter
Auto-rotating in from the clouds
Some of these bodies
Will leave skeletons where they fall.

It is a rock’n’roll flash on a pole as women in pink dresses flash peace signs
And part their legs, soldiers dream of pussy waving before their eyes
The cooing choir of soft voices, what the women allow
Arms in the air, drunk for a moment with a cigarette
Nicotine stains gooey on the fingers, breathy fumes of hard alcohol and weed
Flip flops help dry the jungle rot,
Standing on a thousand crates of ammunition
Look down the street
In the air
The roar of the crash
And the suffering
The little yellow mother cradling emaciated crying
Children dusting the bodies with lime
Nuns wailing beyond praying

editors note: We send'em young with unlined faces; same chaos, different places. Then, we pray for them? (Thanks, Chris, for this real and reverent remembrance.) - mh

Comments 1

  1. Post
    Author
    Chris Zimmerly

    I wrote to a Mr. Page in Australia that I thought perhaps was the photographer whose work I based this poem on. The book Nam. He wrote back and informed me that I had reached a different Mr. Page. I think he might have been protecting his personal space nicely. Or I was just interrupting a professor. I hope he read the poem and felt some feels anyway. Cheers to Mr. Page!

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