My war was in the mess hall where I learned Martin Luther King Jr
was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee.
My war was in a bunker lined with sandbags at Bridge Cargo,
at night outside the bunker looking down the long Shell Road.
My war was in shadows of barracks watching a sailor, Jack Lockhart
who had on one forearm a colorful parrot and on the other a geisha
in a long dress. Her eyes peeked over a fan, as Lockhart boxed
sailor after sailor. None beat him in our camp near the China Sea.
I stood watch at Bridge Ramp as forklifts drove in and out of LSTs
anchored dockside. My war was at Twenty Dui Tan, a house
in the suburbs of Danang, a Naval Intelligence Office. Outside
one night I saw a Vietnamese man who’d been on a motorbike
lying in the street, injured critically by a grenade. My war was bad
things happening around me. Sheldon, a guard at Museum Pier,
crouched under a stone bench, his hands at his helmet to drown
out mortar thuds, or try to, when the jeep patrol found him there.
My war was 101 Doc Lap, an employment place with an iron gate.
People in ragged attire and conical hats struggled against
the force of water, hoses turned on to keep these people from
passing through that gate. My war was a tower looking over a rice
paddy where, the night of Tet, many had died. Looking over
That paddy before and after that firefight. My war was the letters
SP in white on a dark blue helmet, and the black stock of an M-16.
My war was the war of many others, Vietnamese, American,
Korean, who were not in the jungle but in the city of Danang
and on its outskirts. The sun rose and set over Marble Mountain
and the China Sea. My war was Vietnam, my war was a few
get rich and many die. It was a Black GI carried in a straitjacket
from a boat at a ferry launch. My war was what I had a hand in,
sometimes called a conflict, my war in war. My war was all wars.