Once Young, Now Old

I am during this Thanksgiving, thankful for each man and woman who served in the Vietnam War. In the following poem I wrote from the perspective of one who fought there. I am grateful for all of our service men and women who are currently serving in Afghanistan and other places away from their families. I wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.

I am looking for criticism for my war poems. I welcome all and any. I will try out suggestions though I may not in the end use them.

Once Young, Now Old

I shift my focus now, go back in time and place to when I was a younger man and innocence had a face.

A time before I knew the things that I have come to know.

Like those long hot summer days.

We swam together naked, swinging off the low oak tree.

We’d drop into the swirling water laughing joyfully.

Our lives were gentle then, the pace was slow.

We would picnic in the forest as you held your hand in mine.

We ran chasing one another while we were young.

I was soon to be a man.

We lay upon the blanket as the sunrays licked the water that ran tickling down our backs.

Then gently we rolled over making love sweetly on the grass.

When autumn came I went away to school, it was learning that I sought.

But alas, I would stray until that fateful day.

The DOD came knocking on my door, its hand graciously stretched out to me.

I would be forever changed.

I saw it as my duty, a service to this land.

They offered me the promise that they would make of me a man

After basic, I said my goodbyes as we shipped out to Nam.

The place was a hot and seething hell.

Once verdant it had seen the Orange death. I saw way too many flame and fall.

This was a place where mosquitoes were as big as tarantulas and roaches ruled the day.

It seemed that hungry, deadly snakes there, hung from every tree just to make a meal of you.

The rats so big they stared and laughed at you when you had the chance to pee.

The ARVN and the ANZAC stood with us side by side in what would be the worst of wars that men had ever seen.

Together we watched each other’s back.

We fought the devil till he fell.

But the bastard, he got up again just to get us from behind.

Their faces gone, torn, ripped off, beheaded, shortened limbs left lying on the ground.

For that motherfucker Charlie ran way ahead of us sinking his lousy mines.

Always making sure that there would be many more to carry back to camp in pieces from the blast.

Our numbers dwindling now, and reeling from the loss, we looked for mail and wondered? Would she wait for me or Dear John me in the back? Was there another guy in her life now?

A hit of reefer dulled the pain.

Would we make it back alive or arrive home in a box?

They say we are the lucky ones. I came home to stay. She was gone.

Years later now, an old man, I lie awake most nights with insomnia my friend.

Jack Daniels always by my side … but like myself empty now and parched down to the bone.

My sleeplessness a sign that still today:

I am on the lookout for those I left behind.

Know this my brothers you still live within my heart.

My tears for you the only sign that today I am alive.

Posted at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads

2008-2010 © Liz Rice-Sosne

5 thoughts on “Once Young, Now Old

  1. A fantastic write, Liz. I so often think of those innocent nineteen year olds, plunged into a hell they could never have imagined. And of how they come home, with PTSD, changed forever, a tumult of memories, heart sore with all of their losses. You have captured this all to perfection.

  2. how these moments change everything eh? and maybe we realize it in the moment, maybe we are so emboldened by our need to serve, our feelings of nationalism that we dont, but it does…an we see things…experience things we never thought…and it carries echoes we feel for the rest of our lives….

  3. Liz, this is so heartbreaking, so realistic. I really feel you have gotten inside the heart, mind, and soul of one who has returned in body…..but still lives in the war zone in his mind. The details you wrote were incredible. I was right there in hell with him.

Your words of response are greatly appreciated.

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