VIETNAM WAR POETRY

  Ex-patriot

                        Half a century ago, I carried a flag and grinned,
                        with the Young Republicans,
                        in my town's parade, the one that ended
                        in the square.
                        Later, in the band, no uniform,
                        and just good enough at it
                        for a junior-high band.
                        Proud to be in that parade,
                        marching for a future
                        we could smell just past the horizon.

                        In 1970, we paused from marching and plotting
                        the perfect world to follow
                        Apollo's fires. Even later, at Canaveral,
                        standing by the great supine rocket,
                        I was moved from faction to remember
                        an explosion in space, a moment
                        of common fears and dreams.

                        Today, I watch the marchers,
                        fighting two more Asian wars,
                        try to puzzle out their chants and signs,
                        wave to them, and return to my magazine,
                        exhausted by hope.

by Contributing Poet:     David M. Harris   Copyright © 2013
      ( First published in   MyPoemRocks.com   &   The Review Mirror   2013 )


  After Nam

                                  He once told me this story.
                        Up seventy-two bucks at the end,
                        when morning came with no attack.
                        Playing penny-ante in a foxhole
                        in a jungle somewhere in Viet Nam,
                        pretty lucky, except for his birthday.
                        A good birthday left me at home,
                        free to sit in a dark apartment,
                        play canasta, study a little,
                        and march to bring him home alive.

                                  Years later, at an office party, he and I traded
                        memories, drinking through the decades-old
                        hostilities. We needed to work together.
                        We wanted to be friends. An unresolved war
                        stood between. Drinks got us talking.
                        No one worried about old news. We traded
                        experiences.

                                  It was different then. Dressed for business,
                        canapés in the ill-lit back room
                        of a nice midtown restaurant, celebrating
                        some corporate achievement. We had a common
                        enemy now, an employer.

                                  Watching people like me on tv
                        from the barracks, thinking about us
                        from the foxhole, hearing us--
                        some of us--call him a baby-killer
                        when what he was, what they all were,
                        was scared. And we, the ones who had won
                        the draft lottery, could yell
                        as loud as we wanted. From Nam,
                        it was noise and anger. He asked, what in hell
                        had we wanted?

                                  We wanted everything. We wanted
                        free drugs and cheap love, a messianic age
                        of universal brotherhood and electric guitars
                        on rural communes with all mod cons --
                        The dream drifted off, and the ones
                        we marched to bring home, came home
                        with their hostility matching ours.

                                  We stopped marching and found jobs,
                        cut our hair and bought suits.
                        He never got to march down Broadway
                        but did get to change outfits and,
                        shaking hands and comparing our ties,
                        eventually share a good Scotch
                        with a retired protester.

by Contributing Poet:     David M. Harris   Copyright © 2016
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2016 )


Bio:   David M. Harris   had never lived more than fifty miles from New York City until 2003. Since then he has moved to Tennessee, married, acquired a daughter and a classic MG, and gotten serious about poetry. All these projects seem to be working out pretty well. His work has appeared in Pirene's Fountain (and in First Water, the Best of Pirene's Fountain anthology), Gargoyle, The Labletter, The Pedestal and other places. His first collection of poetry, The Review Mirror, was published by Unsolicited Press in 2013. On Sunday mornings, at 11 AM Central time, he talks about poetry on WRFN-LP in Pasquo, TN   ( RadioFreeNashville.org ).


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