Taking a trip to London: Vietnam War poem by Founding Poet Paul Hellweg, Site founder.   Founding Poet:     PAUL HELLWEG   Copyright © 2016
  Taking a Trip to London

                        "Taking a trip to London,"
                        slang for a gin & tonic with beer chaser
                        Dan's Bread and Butter Bar, Hotel Alley, Phạm Ngũ Lão.
                        September 2012, Year of the Water Dragon,
                        street cleaners in dirty orange clothing
                        sweep debris into piles, shovel into handcarts.
                        I'm two trips down, more on the way,
                        Danish friend sad, talks about conditions local hospital,
                        not enough beds, two people each,
                        hall floors lined with other patients.
                        They're the poor, the bottom of the garbage pile,
                        nowhere left to sweep them.

                        Memories unsolicited intrude: NVA summer offensive,
                        August 1968, Year of the Monkey.
                        Tet encore, last hurrah for big-nosed barbarians,
                        troop withdrawals shortly thereafter.
                        M.A.S.H. unit, D Company, 1st Medical Battalion,
                        row of mildewy tents, GP large, eighteen by fifty-two feet,
                        one for surgery, others for the wounded.
                        Guaranteed-to-ruin-your-back canvas cots
                        reserved for the more serious cases,
                        moderately wounded on wooden floor,
                        everyone else on ground outside.

                        Shrapnel through groin and right buttock,
                        unable to lie on back or side,
                        I'm on my stomach passing time counting shrapnel wounds,
                        Master Sergeant next cot over. One hundred and thirty-two.
                        No trips to London for us, major offensive,
                        mass casualties, medical evacuation system overflowing,
                        no broom big enough.

      ( First published in  Gargoyle #64 )

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