I WAS IN VIETNAM LAST NIGHT
I was in Viet Nam last night;
I know, for when I awoke, I had cried.
I suppose the reason was because
someone I knew had died.
The thoughts I’d kept at bay all day
grew like noxious weeds and bloomed,
and the aroma that they gave off
carried the scent of impending doom:
The smell of rotting jungle plants,
the pungent odor of nouc mam,
the acrid stink of powder smoke -
mingled with the reek of napalm -
and insidiously filled my nostrils
as memories were evoked
of firefights, ambushes, air strikes,
and drifting, colored smoke…
Then I hear a guitar gently strummed;
I’m holding a rusty can of beer.
For a time the war fades back a bit,
along with the ever-present fear.
My thoughts shift back across the seas
to that other life I knew:
tinkering with cars, going on dates,
and hanging out drinking brew.
I wonder if I can ever be part
of those carefree days once again?
Thoughts of death never crossed my mind -
I was immortal then.
It seems I grew up all at once,
learned things I never wanted to know,
now, the old ghosts come drifting back,
like softly falling snow...
And they chill the nighttime hours
when I should be sound asleep,
creep into my ears, steal up my nose,
and cause my eyes to weep.
I was in Viet Nam last night,
where my youth suddenly came to an end.
Along with peace and tranquility,
and some very special friends.
© Thurman P. Woodfork 3/29/2004
~For my friend Dave Stevenson, who sometimes travels afar at night.~
There he sits as usual, alone with his innermost thoughts;
These days he’s content to be alone; no other company is sought.
No wife’s homey chatter, no noisy kids’ clatter, only the blessed quiet
That surrounds him on the outside, but now, in his head, there’s a riot.
Noisy, whirling chopper blades join chattering, clattering guns
As he groans and curses the darkness, praying for the morning sun.
Then Spooky’s flares turn the night to noon, as with a whirring roar,
A red tongue of tracers licks hungrily down, searching the jungle floor.
The enemy retreats on silent feet, ghosting away through the trees,
While the choking smoke gradually floats away on the drifting breeze.
But suddenly, he sees that there are no trees, no underbrush, nor any leaves,
Just the rumbling tanks advancing in ranks through clouds of sand on TV.
So, he suppresses a sigh, blinks rueful eyes, aims the remote control,
And with a firm, gentle press of his finger, retains his hold on his soul.
© Thurman P. Woodfork 3/25/2003