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
battlefield

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 Kirk Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. He organized Part-time faulty in Washington State. His book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his autobiography, weekly or bi-weekly musings and hard hitting work in chapter installments, at LA Progressive. He blogs from Otis, Oregon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.