WingSpan Poetry Project


Dear Dad

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Once upon a time
you were my dad
with John Wayne’s teeth, Hey Yah.
Navajo wisdom stirring up
old never forgotten memories
from a hard past
I knew you when you were young …
At 17 you volunteered for war
in the U.S. Army–then off to Vietnam
dark green fatigues, shaven flat top
bunking with guys of different creeds,
race and personalities
young men too young to know
the face of war
they made you into men
killing machines
an army of one.
Then night terrors
would come creeping
into REM sleep.
Thrashing, yelling, screaming.
Nightmares of deep green
thick rubber trees sway
in the wind strong enough
to snap a man’s back in half.
The feel of frigid torrential rain
drenching the minds of innocent
faces running for cover
fields and fields of rice patties
hidden land mines
one false move … Kaboom!
you’re gone …
You were a tank commander
giving off coordinants
to where the Viet Cong were.
Kill or be killed.
They pile bloody lifeless
bodies of old men, women, young
children, babies by the thousands,
blood smell fills the air
as they burn the bodies.
You pray God forgive me!
God, Get me home!
Skin melting, burning inferno
burnt hair and rotting bodies
all that’s left are the tears
and screams of the damned
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.


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