Glorious, Manly, Brave: Another Myth Captured in the Fog of War

Homeless veterans writing class project

the bones of our enemy
deep inside, the verdant paddy
aquamarine, he goes into another heart
no country for Yankees
Vietnam, invasions against people
one thousand years, yet he’s there, old
at twenty-two, listening to John
Wayne bravado, men as boys
baseball and apple pie
in those swamps, twenty
hues of emerald at dusk
sky as red glow
of ember, a photographer’s
golden hour, orange luminescent

he comes to me, 79, Rick,
LT, or Lieutenant Rick, working
as scribe, 22-year-old journalist
in land as far from
Eugene as Alaska is from Tahiti
but he’s at shelter, says
he’s with COPD, says

he remembers Hollywood
campy days, theatre
with a big “T,” song, dance
a freer mind
a world where “faggot”
is lost on

1962, he launches into platoon
moving into enemy green,
territory for holding point, indigenous
people liberate shots, free-fire

we call Viet Cong
flash tracer report
but Rick says
light at sunset,
perfect for shooting, 35mm
Nikon, his friend stands
holds aperture ring
composes, in that angelic
illumination, shot for war, captures
invading soldiers, his
snap, a moment split second
before slug zeroes into skull

the real moment
is the kiss he
gives, dead man
soaked in elephant grass
down, he is the link, Lt. Rick
holding breathless photographer
a kiss on temple
the rigor mortis Rick’s
as medics pull him
away, war, not our

country, not Vietnam’s
war, but America’s
war, sprayed like
napalm on ancient people
back to stone age

glory, televised memories
no faggots in World
War Two, Lieutenant Rick
the fag, homo on battlefield
blood of buddy, those good
red-blooded grunts cursing
their own, Rick, as photographer
lays dead, a kiss on the
last respiring cell
of dead photographer
who caught
the last light
just right before death
the perfect depth of field
perfect photograph
but not enough to end
Rick’s war.

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.