Thursday Poem

When I Am 19 I was a Medic

…. —for Lee, who sculpts Light

All day I always want to know
the angle, the safest approach.
I want to know the right time
to go in. Who is in front
of me, who is behind.
When the last shots were fired,
what azimuth will get me out,
the nearest landing zone.

Each night I lay out all my stuff:
morphine, bandages at my shoulder,
just below, parallel, my rifle.
I sleep strapped to a .45,
bleached into my fear.
I do this under the biggest tree,
some nights I dig
in saying my wife’s name
over and over.

I can tell true stories
from the jungle. I never mention
the fun, our sense of humor
embarrasses me. Something
warped it out of place
and bent I drag it along—
keeping track of time spent,
measure what I think we have left.

Now they tell me something else—
I’ve heard it all before
sliding through thee grass
to get here.

by D.F. Brown
Unaccustomed Mercy, Soldier-Poets
……. of the Vietnam War
Texas Tech University Press, 1989