Three War Poems …
Three War Poems
I will never forget the day
Contracted this illness, this syndrome
from the Gulf War, even though
all other details of life have slipped away,
they told me there was a shell,
an undetonated shell located
near my platoon’s path,
poisoning us with some hidden
syndrome remnants, a removal
of my ability to remember, fall
into rages for no reason, lost my wife,
my kids, because of that empty shell.
What is funny is I know what did it,
let me tell you over this homemade
apple wine I made behind our clinic,
these billets can hold the truth, these
photos I keep near my toothbrush,
everywhere I was stationed after the war,
with this letter explaining my syndrome.
I know it was the day our tanks
fought face to face with theirs, our enemy.
I kept hollering as loud as screams
of exploding ammunition, at one point
I remember putting my hands to my ears
over my earplugs to keep out the screams,
it only lasted seconds, I did not leave my post.
I did close my eyes though, in that second,
tight, I thought I saw smoke through my
When I opened my eyes, noise was over,
I heard on radio that we were all clear.
We had won, a golden Bush Senior victory
to add to our list of victories, what a grand war.
I took a camera out of my pocket as I left the tank,
have you ever seen bodies melted
into the ruins of mangled metal?
Charred arms reaching out to God,
where ever God may be, still
part of smoking metal, no longer
human at all, no names, only smells
mixed with black aromatic smoke,
pungent, burnt flesh and burnt metal,
the smell of lingering fear
of a soldier who tried to exit to find
his torso thrown to ground a few feet away,
maybe his last vision was his own spine.
These are the pictures, they are all I have,
my memory has been shot.
The Panama Incident
I used to hang out in friend’s patrol car,
we would pull over a few speeders,
mostly we just sat with smokes and looks
out over swampland on either side.
He was Military Police,
four years and didn’t mind taking
care of traffic every once and awhile.
The thing is, neither of us stayed sober
for more than an hour or two, for many years,
here we sat in patrol cars to watch our
He had his reasons and I had mine
if there really is a reason for each drink.
I knew his, or at least the day
we started drinking together.
He had been sent to Panama, a few years
part of Military Police action around
To control trouble spots with little
to use a smaller force to save tax dollars.
After a long wait in a full gym,
his orders held firmly in his hands,
he was trucked to airfield and lifted up
to Panama, where nights were hot,
to stay in bunkers and play cards,
To perform guard duty on the wall
at least that is what they called it.
A small five-foot concrete divider,
to divide us from them with a white line,
a line no one should cross.
In evening he stood with his weapon
behind the Constantina wire on top of the wall
surrounded by syrup heat and heavy
eyes kept the weapon pointed out
into darkness, into sounds of greenery,
living things that croaked in the night.
When through these sounds he caught
the sigh of human movement, a sigh
of quiet footfall, a misplaced cadence,
he moved his light out to the echo
where stood an older woman who wore
a multicolored scarf wrapped around her head.
He noticed a flaming red gown on her shoulders
like a ghost of Frida haunting Panama.
She stood with both hands on her scarf
as if to hold the scarf on through the stillness.
“You do not belong here, please return
to where you came from if you cross the white line
you will be shot.” He stated in Spanish,
then English, then Spanish again.
For what seemed an eternity she stood,
Her hands on her scarf, then she
put her hands down and placed them forward
in front of her body, in front of her heart
like an offering, she then walked forward.
“Please do not cross the white line!” He yelled
in Spanish, then English, in Spanish again.
But she kept moving towards the white line,
the wall, the Constantina wire.
“I will have to shoot!” He yelled again
in Spanish, in English, then Spanish.
When she crossed the white line
he felt his finger pull the trigger.
He felt his training take hold,
he felt his training hit the mark.
He felt a forced emptying of his soul
as he cried out and rested his chin
on the butt of his weapon and stayed
in darkness and deep
empty heat in his silent weeping.
He was debriefed and sent home to Fort Polk LA,
where we met and drank our days of different drinks,
orders or no orders,
the spiritual link between all living things
can never be fixed when broken.
The Ride to The Wall
(Dedicated to My Father)
He remembered hum, Orange,
inside of bomber
loud drop halfway to R&R
in Thailand, never set foot
on Vietnamese soil, but dumped
that shit on forest, Orange
on every trip, this hum
was the same hum his first Triumph
made, first time he rode.
Nowadays they call him “iron ass”
three hundred ninety-two miles
of nothing but road, air, Orange,
so many years of it, he plain forgot,
then in Nineteen Ninety-Six
he rode with his group
of VFW patriots who fought
for their place to stand
next to WWI and WWII
veterans at the VFW alter,
they, he, was proud.
He left the group
after first campsite
drove everyday mile after Orange mile
camped with other travelers
headed to The Wall.
Soon one became many
tens became thousands,
line in an Orange row,
crowd made him seasick Orange.
He decided to head home,
too many people, he missed his wife
towards western hums
he traveled, still in motion,
on second day of Orange
he had a vision, he saw
the fine powder of drop,
he saw what he had done with Orange.
He seemed to forget everything,
his name, his wife, his sons, his life.
In a bright bright Orange haze
that lifted shortly before his home,
filled with terror he never felt before,
left road and returned to his family.
The minute he set foot within his home
he couldn’t relax a muscle
he couldn’t tie a thought into a bow.
He grabbed his son by his arms,
focused every bit of Orange eye contact.
“Don’t trust them…
Don’t trust the Orange bastards…
Don’t ever trust…
These poems are located in my poetry collection “Six Years of Service.” If you enjoyed reading please stop by and read about this collection here at TCE:
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