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 Viet Nam Generation Journal & Newsletter

V3, N4 (January 1992)

Texts made available by the Sixties Project, are generally copyrighted by the Author or by Viet Nam Generation, Inc., all rights reserved. These texts may be used, printed, and archived in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. Copyright law. These texts may not be archived, printed, or redistributed in any form for a fee, without the consent of the copyright holder. This notice must accompany any redistribution of the text. A few of the texts we publish are in the public domain. For information on a specific text, contact Kalí Tal. The Sixties Project, sponsored by Viet Nam Generation Inc. and the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, is dedicated to using electronic resources to provide routes of collaboration and make available primary and secondary sources for researchers, students, teachers, writers and librarians interested in the 1960s.

Poetry by Bill Jones, Jr.

Near Laos


Just outside the wire
A Recon patrol walks
Almost jauntily
Into an L-shaped ambush
Automatic weapons pop
Like a dozen lawn mowers
Gone mad.
And in between staccato bursts
High pitched voices
Scream for salvation.
"Come on," Hutch says,
"We got to help them."

As we rush blind
To join the fire-fight
I realize
They are dying down there
And cleverly fumble with gear
Grasp for excuses
To let Hutch go

There are dim truths
About ourselves
We are far better
Not knowing.
Easily So easily
I could have lived
With a glance of scowling
Grown old and comfortable
In the shadow of cowardice.
Borne forty years of guilt.
Almost anything...really.
("Come on," Hutch says.)
Except the look of fleeting


We help a Corpsman drag
A trembling Black kid
Gut-shot and eyes rolling white
Through red dust
And smoldering tree stumps.
He calls alternately for Mamma
And a buddy named Rock.
Finding no help there
He stuffs my shirtsleeve
In his mouth
And chews away the pain.


Five Days Home

My father and I
Sit in the shade
Of a chinaberry tree
Talk softly of the last good war.
A time of ration cards
And Gold Star Mothers.
"A uniform meant free drinks
And a lot more"
My father says
"But they kept me training pilots
And wouldn't let me go."

In the lower pasture
A phantom chopper whines
Rotors thrash hot wind
As it wobbles upward
With another half-dead cargo.
I blink the image away

"I won't ask if you killed anyone"
My father says
"Because I don't want to know."
Just as well, I think angrily,
My personal count is a little hazy.
Like the pregnant woman at Gio Linh
(She never should have run)
Zapped by a battery of howitzers
Raising puzzling statistical questions.
How do I mark her.
One and a half? Two?
"Drop 100 meters," I whisper.
"Fire for effect."
"Roger that," the RTO replies.

Arm in arm
My father and I
Walk awkwardly toward supper
And the 6 o'clock news.

The chopper drones
Tilts plexiglass nose
To a hospital ship.
The woman at Gio Linh
Seeing her chance
Dashes like a sprinter
Legs pumping furiously
For a stand of scrub oaks
Behind the barn.

"It's a shame," my father says,
Climbing the back steps,
"You didn't get to serve
In a real

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