Ambush Patrol

To stay awake

on the jungle floor,

I analyze mosquitoes,

crawling, stinging creatures

a boy might fear,

and the confusion of why

they would laugh so loud:

 

my father, my brothers,

on the day the draft notice

shot up from the mailbox

as white and ordinary

as a water bill,

so eager in their bellies

for the boy famous for

his cocky mouth and easy ways

to finally pay his dues

 

I glanced from them

to the blossoming dogwoods

on our Missouri street,

heard the blast of claymores

I’d heard about,

felt the snap of wire

across my shins

 

I do not fear those here

I hope to snare and scatter,

but nights ahead back there,

three a.m., wandering a dark house,

blasting caps on my mind,

echos of the crazy laughter

of my father’s sons,

the old losers at the bar

gunning for me to find out

what it’s really like in the real world

–South Vietnam, 1969

 

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