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Vietnam by Bill Childers

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An Insight... A Trail of Life

In as much as time eternal has not lessened the driving determination of writers, whether they be poets, song writers or novelists, to bring romance or glamour into the bitter struggles of war, the devastation of that same horror, defying any truth, whether it be base or otherwise, still exists.  I, having not only seen it first-hand in two wars, but played havoc in the destruction as well, bring a moment of truth to the forefront... There is NO glamour or romance there!

Having said that, I must backtrack somewhat to stumble with a statement or two in the form of a poem which offers a love of people for a land, and a hold of that land on a people, seeming to say in some strange and demanding tongue, "You are mine, we have found life and love together... for one another."  I felt this much more intense in a malignant quagmire called Vietnam than I ever found in Korea sixteen years earlier... sixteen years younger.

I felt a malady, a sickness so poignant with feeling that it was impossible to find a divider to lay the feeling to the proper side... love or hate.  The only truth I could find was that a man, woman or child seem to realize that, from birth to death, this was an absolute part of their "trail of life"... be it love or hate.

When I left Vietnam, I was unable to leave these feelings behind to the extent that I had when leaving Korea sixteen years earlier.  I had already been baptized into the first verse of what I would spend almost two years writing... fourteen years after reaching the quiet and malevolent world once more, enlarging upon, but unable to make Vietnam go away.  The sights, the smells were there regardless of what I tried to think or decide.  I found myself sitting on the edge of the bed in our quarters at the Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton, California, to which I was ordered after Vietnam.  I sat there for a period of time looking at what I called "safe lights".  I knew only lights in Nam that signified death and/or danger.  I immersed myself in these beautiful lights signifying safety!  It was much later before I was able stop this practice.  WAR romantic?  Speculate next time you hear or read this!

Bill Childers
Copyright: 2002

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It’s a dark land, wet, soggy, that’s called men to sweat and strain.
The bare cry of the peasant-child called men, ...but, for what gain?
The bleeding wound, death’s stench, aged body racked with pain...
The calling, calling, in a strange language, for life to live again!

And...we’ve answered... O God, yes!... the young, the not-so-young.
And, we’re afraid when we have... "Live, peasant-child, old-man!"
All want to live in the decency of their time, know right... wrong.
The young want so much to live... the ’aged’ want only a land.

Fertile soil, sodden burdens... long the march of time and man...
Yielding their miserly worth, strength, strength of sorts to ignorant masses.
Frail in birth, unclean in life, unsecure in death... flotsam in sand
Washed upon the beach of time by angry waves, violent clashes!

It’s not new... the violence, drudgery, unbridled fury, kindled.
But, they ragged bodies of desperate youth... this... is new in ’kind’!
When it has groped , struggled, life apart from a mother’s womb...
Who... has listened, has come to help, just one... a life to find?

The dark land with its maladies, ill-born purpose long-forgotten,
Where battles rage, lives meet in death... or death... or death.
What purpose is sought with the price of brutal land left to rot?!
What gain is known ere eternity be had in one struggling death?

We live, struggle long to clear the air of humankind’s existence.
We clearly give, having long quit expecting return on our giving.
We strive to grasp, having long-since ceased to fain in pretense...
Yet, that we can always stand, we must seek essence in living!

Whether in dark lands, or cities bright with man’s artificiality...
Whether we know the reason, or spin in some ill-begotten cause,
Whether the peasant-child becomes the old man in biting reality...
The young bleed... answering in echoing, echoing, echoing... loss!

Bill Childers
Vietnam 1968-69
Copyright: 2002

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