June 22, 2011

Ho Chi Minh Anew: A Poem

Posted in Travel, Writing tagged , , at 7:51 PM by moxiemuse

NOTE: This is a poem I wrote in 2000 about my 1994 trip to Vietnam. I thought I’d post it here for others to enjoy.

 

At the end of the descent

The passengers leaned near

Windows, eyeing the old tarmac

It awaits them, with history unclear

 

The soldiers with wives

Lucky, having support close at hand

Alone, the widowers stared down

Clutching armrests, unsupported and unwilling to stand

 

Came through the customs gate

Scarred and scared, yet curious

Paused just long enough

Passport cleared without legs buckling under

 

Fraught, the trip was long

Hotel transfer then it’s over

Chance to get their bearings strong

Or feeling overwhelmed, running for cover

 

Sights and sounds, different yet the same

The thoughts coursing through

The past, many moments of danger

No longer filtered, bad dreams so true

 

The bus winds slowly southward

Roads full of bumps, in pavement and in mind

Flashes of rice fields and innocent pointed hats

Skies alight at night, returning fire in kind

 

Stumbling forth out the door, sunshine beams

The streets are full, normal business all around

How short it seems, not long ago

When they were here, war ruled every inch of ground

 

Familiar words, familiar food

Amazing how it all comes back

There were some days of good

New-found treasures before mass attack

 

Intact families, rare in number

Rarely seen, exploring the country

Which abounds in beauty and bounty

Fighting armies put asunder

 

Now old men view anew

This place not forgotten

Lands destroyed, people ruined

A cause gone rotten

 

The draft had arrived offering little choice

In response to the military’s call

Brave in the face of family, were we

Waving goodbye, standing tall

 

Off to foreign soil, where youth was lost

Our training was no preparation

Deployed into malaria-infested jungles and swamps

Forced to fight without trepidation

 

Where were the rulers?

To spare the unnecessary waste

While dying men soldiered on

Commanders shouting, make haste

 

The whirring speed of grenades in flight

Dropping near, the destruction in sight

Bullets raining from the sky

In fright, whole villages scurry by

 

Today, the veterans see

Tanks and jeeps and artillery strewn

On the passing roadways and

Across blood-soaked farmlands in ruin

 

Affronted by the newness

Yet, bewildered by the strange sameness

They have come to have one last look

Old dreams are dying, withering with age

Now, forging only good memories for their mind’s book

Of friends and foe alike

Finding peace and tranquility

With the grace and wisdom of a sage.

 

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