No more slam those much abused doors,
Nor the Hi-Fi emits its usual array of noise.
Seldom does a busy signal greet phone callers these days,
And gone are those kitchen table notes.
Nowhere is that constant din of chatter
As two rooms stand waiting for their masters.
Alone together again after countless years,
A mother and a father endure the pain
Of giving their only boys to the Uniform.
How new these impressions are,
So clean, so fresh, so different,
Impressions only of this way of life,
Experienced by many, enjoyed but by a few.
My head is covered and protected
By a heavy steel green helmet;
A breeze blows gently up and into this helmet;
My voice echoes a bit as I talk under it.
How new is this eight pound weight
My rifle, hour after hour on my shoulder,
Resting there, ready, waiting for a command.
At first it was my master, now I am master over it.
Draped on my is that inevitable uniform
Making me just another body.
Still I'm proud of what it represents,
Even as my individuality is retained only in my mind.
With loving care, day after day,
I tend my boots, dry them, polish and clean them.
After all they take care of me sixteen hours a day,
Walking, running or marching through water and sand.
Close-by a drill instructor calls out the cadence,
Farther away 300 men sing as they march;
In the distance drums and more drums sound-
Keeping the Infantry man in step.
Booming and cracking come sounds over the hill
Of artillery, grenades, machine guns and rifles;
From the sky floats the paratrooper,
Ever practicing for that One jump.
How new these impressions are:
The music of the bugles and the strange loneliness.
This is a change to a new way of life;
A fighter, a defender, a soldier is being formed.
65 Ft Jackson SC
Suddenly it becomes so terrifyingly real.
The game, if it ever was one, is over.
The safety, serenity and adventure of Saigon
Was left behind in that forty five minute flight.
Hundred miles of rice patties and water separate us now;
And here, it's all for real.
Loaded weapons on the plane,
Warnings about crash landings,
The latest flack conditions
I carry loaded ammo magazines in my pocket
And later sleep with my rifle under my cot.
What will tomorrow bring, when I
Must move again, even farther from here?
What will the next ten minutes bring?
Can Tho, VN 11/ 1967
CHRISTMAS EVE, VIETNAM
'Tis unusually silent tonight:
Gone is the usual thundering
Resonance of the artillery, while
Base lights are dimmed for perimeter security.
Millions of stars glow intensely
In the cloudless black sky and
Palm trees rustle in the lukewarm breeze.
The faint sound of Christmas carols,
From countless radios and tape recorders,
Lingers in the air.
Vietnamese families are home together tonight
With thoughts of their country's plight,
For a few moments, lost.
GI's sit in their hootches or bars
Sharing each other's forced company-
Trying to hold back thoughts
Of what tonight really means to them
Lest they become overcome with loneliness
And thoughts of Christmases past.
12/1967 Bac Lieu, VN
With little warning,
She comes down from he sky
And delivers her human cargo
Upon the troubled earth.
Forth they jump, running and shouting:
A baptism of fire at each birth.
Some learn...and survive,
A few die,
A lucky few experience no combat.
When the world falls quiet for a while,
Or darkness falls,
Or a bullet finds its mark,
And takes her own
Back into the safety of her womb--
Vi Thanh 11/ 1967
WHEN THE CRICKETS ARE QUIET...
Suddenly the crickets stop singing
And all the animals stand waiting--
The jungle is too quiet.
A snapping twig and a metallic click
Break the silence...
A flare, then another,
Shoot up from the jungle floor
Turning night into day.
After a brief but heavy exchange of gunfire,
The flares slowly sail back to earth
And darkness again envelopes the wet jungle.
A few mothers in the North
And a few mothers in the South
Have suddenly lost their sons
As the crickets sing again.
Sai Gon 11/ 1967
Sitting there I was, in nature's garden,
almost burning under the hot tropical sun.
It was noon, the earth very still that hour-
most people sleeping after their noon meal.
A faint sound alerts me.
The wind, I think, but no, 'tis not that.
Looking around, nothing seen,
The earth so tranquil, so still;
But the heavens-not so!
Beyond the clouds, ever so many miles high,
two little specks of silver
fly along with the ease and speed of an angel.
Almost silently came they from so far away,
always in pairs, as their mission is too horrid
for one to do alone.
Without warning, they swing wide
their underside gates
and let loose upon the earth that dreadful
wicked load they had stored within.
Within a few seconds the noon rice paddies
and serene hamlets erupt into a
blazing inferno of death-Instant Hell.
And the little gods take their silver-
winged angels of death back home.
Vi Tanh Province 10/68
I must leave you now!
But with mixed emotions do I board this plane.
In a few moments,
Like a bird will I be
Looking down, and back, upon you.
In twelve short and quick months
Much have you taught me:
A complete cram course on life.
You have shown me blood and death,
Fear and horror, hunger and pain.
Heat and rain, and dirt and dirt.
I have also seen the poverty of your people,
Your polluted canals and rivers,
And the agony of peasants caught in war.
I have met your people,
Seen much inefficiency,
Disinterest, dishonesty and selfishness.
But to balance the scales,
Also had I:
Seen serene rice fields, beautiful sunsets
And that one spectacular moonrise,
Dreamt under clear star filled skies,
Enjoyed a handful of good times,
Had a few good friends,
And received a rare, sincere "Thank You."
ON WEEDS, LOVE & CUCUMBERS
Love is a warm ray of sunshine
that nurtures the growth of a flower-
But sometimes the flower grows where it wasn't
It's supposed to grow in your flower box??
but sometimes it grows in your lawn or driveway.
Isn't that what a weed is?
Something out of place?
But it's a flower nonetheless.
This summer we noticed a weed growing
between the back steps and the driveway.
We let it grow for months--it looked so familiar...
This weekend I looked at it again and
harvested two cucumbers.
They were good. I'm glad I didn't pull the "weed."
H Trux © 8/83
with a few
H Trux © 7/71