To The Vietnam Veterans I Know
Peter thought he was John Wayne.
Said to the young prostitute
at the Saigon bar,
“I’m glad to be here
to help you. To save your country.”
Slowly she rose from the stool
her fine-boned hands clenched
at her sides. Her body rigid.
As her voice rose her anger dimmed
her red satin dress. “You are
killing my people. Go home! Go home!”
Jim’s base was overrun on a moon-free
night. The grunts hit the trenches.
For survival he covered himself
with the remains of his buddy’s body.
The shots still ring in his ears.
Michael made his first kill
at age 18. Then another. And
another. Back home it took
years to let go of the gun. Slender
yellow faces follow his dreams.
Don was a hawk. Couldn’t wait
to get over there and kill
some ‘slope-heads’. Twenty years
later he drinks himself into
oblivion to muffle the screams
of women and children
that thunder through his head.
The names have not been changed
to protect the innocent. Because
they were innocent. Innocent that
governments lie. Innocent that
guns kill. Innocent of gentle ways
to prove their manhood.