Myth of Glory

  The orphan boy
  has one arm,
  he stares at me
  from the side of the road;
  a lifetime of hate
  in eight short years.

  We storm the village,
  it is invested by VC
  wrapped in villager's cloth.
  They fire AK-47's.
  We return fire, kill them.
  From a hootch we hear voices,
  we yell, throw out your weapons,
  come out, with your hands up!
  (pigeon Vietnamese.)
  They answer with curses and fire.
  We fill the hootch with lead,
  toss in a grenade.
  Warily, we look inside,
  all dead.
  A young woman
  clutches an infant to her breast;
  welded together
  in a river of blood.

  She is young, yet old,
  browned by the sun.
  she toils in
  the dark corridors of night,
  the small dank rooms;
  repeated heaving, drunken breath.

  The Saigon street
  is filled with people,
  the sounds of life energizing,
  the business of living
  intensely pursued.
  A shell explodes, then another
  and another.
  The Saigon street
  is filled with the sounds of death.

  The boy, no more than ten,
  glares at me.
  From beneath his garment,
  he flashes his weapon.
  Give me a noble cause,
  telll me why,
  I had to kill a ten-year old boy.

  We are on patrol,
  dark night, steaming jungle.
  The sawgrass cuts.
  We step warily, listening for a sound;
  trip-wires, booby traps abound,
  meld with the earth,
  waiting for one more step.

  The nurse came down
  with the chopper,
  its blades whirling, churning air.
  They take our wounded.
  The nurse is young, rumpled;
  the lines of exhaustion, heavy
  on her face.
  She  tends our wounded with the
  sure hand of an angel of mercy.
  I hunger for her.
  I ache for her soft touch.

  We are on a two-man LP
  fused to the undergrowth
  of the jungle.
  The moon peers between
  the tall-bladed grass,
  giving us vision,
  then retreats behind night clouds.
  Our ears become our antenna,
  tuned to detect a suspicious sound.
  It is difficult.
  All sounds are suspicious.

  I see a monk burning;
  He sits on the damp ground as a budda,
  his hands clasped in silent prayer.
  The flames flare up;
  as ash, he disappears.
  Still, the war goes on.
  Tomorrow, another monk will burn
  in flaming protest,
  and every day a monk will burn
  and still, the war will go on.

  There is little thought
  of rioting, flag-burning,
  our own venomous vilification.
  We fight because we are here,
  there is no alternative.
  We did not burn our draft cards
  and run off to Canada.

  There is a place called home.
  I don't know where that is.

  John Kent