Late nights I watched them in a circle

of muted flashlights banging an old guitar,

sucking harmonicas, keeping time with the crust

of their jungle boots, singing protest songs,

the latest Beatles tune, ballads of homeland betrayals


Back from checking the wire I often found them

laying in stupors around a hookah like little boys

finally worn down at the end of an overnight

at a friend’s house back in The World


Charlie was out there waiting,

sorely wanting us out of his country


Old man of the squad I stood watch with

an untrusty M-16, bowie knife and grenades

until I slumped and slept against a sandbag wall


I still catch myself driving on the now foreign streets

of my childhood city, singing the lines of songs

we sang back then of loss and regret and betrayal,

lines I keep repeating one by one:


“I heard the news today oh boy…”


“I ain’t no fortunate son…”


“We gotta get outta this place,”


lines stuck on the scratchy CDs of my brain


Never since have I found “Oh say can you see,”

worth a salute, a tear or losing any sleep over