Vietnam again

I’ve been to Vietnam.

Not because I was drafted,

But because I wasn’t.

 

I had to see first-hand the people

Who defied the calculation

That massive doses of

Napalm and bombs

Would bring surrender.

 

The war in Vietnam

Has lived with me.

Has shaped me.

It made me an activist.

My trip to Vietnam

Made me more of an American.

 

In a small boat in the Mekong Delta,

I touched the fear of GI’s on patrol

Who could not see behind the dense growth

Along the banks.

 

As the Vietnamese rebuild their country,

American visitors are welcomed and

Reminded who won and who lost.

 

On the lawn of the former Presidential Palace

In Saigon were replicas of a Chinese and Soviet tank

That helped dismantle the old regime.

Nearby was a U.S.  fighter jet hijacked by

A Viet Cong pilot who joined the assault.

 

In Hanoi we had lunch at the hotel

Where Jane Fonda and other leaders of the

Anti-war movement stayed during their 1972

Visit to the leaders of the communist government.

 

I came with admiration for the Vietnamese

Liberation of their country.

In Vietnam I  

Faced the trauma

Of the GI’s and officers

Who fought there.

 

We visited the prison where

John McCain and other

Captured American pilots were held.

 

Fifty miles outside Saigon

Was a war memorial

That showed a short documentary

About a 16-year-old Vietnamese girl

Who killed a record number of American soldiers.

 

An American veteran

Allowed our Vietnamese guide

To use him to demonstrate

How hidden doors on the jungle floor

Trapped American soldiers.

 

We were invited to enter the

Tunnels where the Viet Cong

Laid in wait for them,

I was too large and too

Afraid to follow him inside.

 

I mentioned to our guide

The millions of Americans, like me,

Who opposed the war —

Marching, protesting, demanding

“U.S. get out of Vietnam.”

Our guide said he understood.

 

Back in Saigon,

A city with pulsing energy

That made a New Yorker feel at home,

A Young Vietnamese businessman

Spoke about the dislocation and turmoil

His pro-American family endured.

 

50 Years later,

Not exactly friends,

Vietnamese and Americans

Are coming to know one another

And ourselves.

 

July, 2018

 

4 thoughts on “Vietnam again

  1. My stepfather died in Vietnam
    Came back as a ghost
    An abuser, a fuck

    My first love’s brother died in Vietnam
    Came back as a ghost
    A killer

    Tell me why I’m so angry

    We resisted as best we could
    That makes me more or less angry
    And more resistant

    Like

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