VIPER

The rocket left its tube,

smoked through daybreak

over the wire,

so close to Position 28

I could feel its whistle

shoot static through my ear,

hear the nuts and bolts inside

shake down to the road

and a hoarse scream,

“Somebody help us over here, goddammit.”

And so it arrived.

That night

it curled itself

around the wooden skid

where I slept,

dug in so deep

I closed my eyes to it.

In the village

from a distance it watched me

stiffen at the fingers of children

pulling at my pockets-

were they children or devils?

I wondered, too,

those old women carrying baskets-

which one would strap a grenade

to the belly of a boy,

send him running at me

through the crowd?

It raced along the convoy

past ARVN soldiers

napping on the hulls of tanks

as we moved through the rubber

to Dau Tieng,

holding our M-50’s two-handed,

ready for an ambush or sniper,

ready for another scream.

It breathed rhythm

of my breath

as I lay awake

under the mosquito netting,

waiting for the rocket

with my name on it

to tear open the sandbagged roof.

I could feel the B-52’s shake the ground

all the way to Cambodia .

It suckered its sour lips

Against my head and whispered”

Better them than you, eh GI?

Better them than you.

 
 
 
 
 

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