Dedicated to Abolishing War, Establishing Justice, and Fighting Climate Disaster

Dedicated to Abolishing War, Establishing Justice, and Fighting Climate Disaster

by D.F. Brown

for Phuc Luu

Nobody could sleep.–Norman Mailer

Among them we are the lucky…strangest word.–George Oppen

Sleep is like luck.–Frances Phillips

So somewhere late 60’s
and just back from the war
my mom tells me she knew
I would not die there
and in her kitchen
needed to use a bowl
to eat canned peaches

We were killer kids
Our mothers sent to war
History with a past
No one wants to talk about

Like the 60’s might mean more
Than they care to know
We fought for stale candy
In boxes of bad food

Went at it in the dark
Like war was braille in places
Like hearts & minds was a lie
And spent our gifts on napalm

Like we might make friends
Get the little people to trust us
We fought that war like
We had bullet boys to burn

It was all lullaby when I arrived
Start of the final stage
First real helicopter war
Weary worn-out wasted
I could feel failure oozing
Watch our half-hearted army
Wobble on its skids and
Understood the only question left
“who would be the last dead dude?”

When you find yourself
Toting an automatic rifle
Up a muddy Binh Dinh trail
With an understrength platoon
Hoping camouflage works
And wonder if you get
To the part that makes any sense
And think you want to know
What happens next
How far you go to get there

Each night a new password
Something to say when dark arrives
Twilight slides down the body count aisle
Slips into your foxhole and
Green turns black
You clutch the claymore clacker
Like life depends on blasting
800 eighth inch steel balls
Across the footpath below

All night in the mouth of a myth
You hear clouds scrape dark
And think you filled enough sandbags
And talk short-shit like wishes
You’d leave this jungle
Go straight home and
Home is a hole
You wish you’d dug deeper

We stood on bare hillsides in monsoon
And look good in the snapshots
They gave of those guns

Made war dance in our heads
So we glow like in the garden myth
As if our hearts had been defoliated

When good boys die for nothing
Like god was hiding from us
Grief enters each syllable

In the muddle of before
When we were children
And rubbed everything

Morning makeshift at the mirror

I rise from the ashes of dreams
Think I have a handle on the dark

And know the place by heart
Remember how to who and

Will tell strangers thanking me
For service they know so little about

Can handle only in cliché
How blood becomes art

And war a lapel pin
A baseball cap or coffee mug

Ten percent off lunch at Luby’s

Because I did not die in Vietnam
I get to hold the lost war close

And love the four-deuce mortar
My sixteen and my pistol

My pals in holes around me
The jungle dark that holds us

Sandbags-claymores-barbed-wire
All night knotted in my heart

Photo: Paula Nguyen Luu

Hear the author read his poem Binh Dinh Blues.

For updates from antiwar veterans and others in the movements for peace, social justice and our planet, subscribe to our newsletter.

You have Successfully Subscribed!