Friday, April 21, 2017

Vietnam War Poetry: Nothing Remains

Nothing Remains by Jon Forrest Glade

Almost twenty years after the last helicopter
fled Saigon, nearly two decades after
the last domino fell,
John Balaban reports,
"Whatever we left, nothing remains."
Try to imagine the countryside
without gunships overhead.
The bomb craters have been filled,
planted with eucalyptus and bamboo.
No free fire zones remain.
Forget the chopper pads,
the guardtowers, the sandbag bunkers,
and the foo gas drums
behind the concertina wire.
All perimeters have been breached,
the jungle has reclaimed LZ Bongo
and Ap Bai Mountain is green again.
Unlearn the stench
of human shit burning in diesel.
The afterimages of tracers
should fade from your eyes;
Puff no longer pumps death
from the night time sky.
All that are left are statistics,
letters, photographs, unread books,
television clichés and memories
that howl on sleepless nights.
The American dead are only names
on a long black wall in Washington.
Your friends who survived
are fat and forty, balding and soft,
drink too much in the Legion,
fly POW/MIA flags,
and dwell in their pasts.
What you knew has no juice left
and is as dry
as the white sand dunes of Eagle Beach,
as dry as the pages of history texts.
The spilled blood did not compress
as hard as coal nor as black as oil,
it turned to dust or joined
the dioxin in the soil.
Don't trust your memory,
it plays tricks on you.

"Whatever we left,
nothing remains."

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