“A Vietnam Memoir In Tanka Form”

(May 20, 2018) Tankas 1081 to 2001)

December 10, 1970

By J Richards



I saw my lives slip

away so easy and so fine

too soon for long pain


and said behind my blindness

if this is death it’s not so bad


cannot hear or see

or even feel – still floating

in the flash of fire


and said to me if you think

maybe not-dead: go. quick. taste!



everywhere you reach

for blood’s copper scary stink

yep. Calm your heart – quick


slow , deep, longer draughts of breath

to quell a racing heartbeat



lick some fingers; wash

eyelids free of gore and blood

and see your’s doom’s path


not a mortar but rocket

and that means you’re overrun


forget finding eyes

those glasses and gun are gone:

stop the questions – act!


how i copped a smoke

covered with cupped hands year ago

maybe two hours past


hey! I can see – the flares glow

shows hieronymous horror



just a ragged hand

clutching a gook tin-can grenade

concertina wire


with tanglefoot between – no bugles

no banners go unfurled



the bunker’s up there

stay and die or go and die

no question – go-ward


no movie but shit-scared real

it’s true – thank god: i must pee


high-stepping the wire

i never mastered in football

mortar flashes more


lead the way through stark terror

green and orange tracers touch



marine arty rings

only sappers left inside

i freeze and then yell


marine! comin’ in – and duck

inside pacific dark gloom


a bloody face calms

with precise radio chatter

i sit by the hatch


and clutch my randall bowie

and resume yoga breathing


years later, corpsman

comes and asks where hit and checks

new wound! big ticket!


now blind again but not scared

wait the med-evac chopper


i help to carry

gut-shot viet lieutenant

and i almost sit


but no glasses, no rifle,

no camera, so – no thanks!


the corpsman inside

just shakes his head – seen it before

i take my blue card


off that ‘bird’ that came for me

and go find my stuff – and glasses!


it’s now dawn and still

i need to pee – my notebook

in my flak jacket


i find my pack – camera

and get to work shooting pics


the colonel comes by

remembers me unfondly

and gives me a ride


back to regimental rear

where finally i can pee


the surgeon mends my

glasses and the corpsman tends

my silly shrapnel


the doc finds the other wound

and fishes for more debris


penicillin and

a final inspection – done

i hitch a ride home


six-by truck to danang

with a stop at freedom hill


say hi to donut

dolly sheila shanahan

and go grab a beer


no one mentions the headwrap

but some stare at the big knife


‘nother ride – and home

‘hey – you were dead’ some say

then missing, one chimes


I slip outside ‘nother beer

and type but one last story



later i was told

tall tales, none at all was true

and thence to strange days


sheila and a general

both came she smiled – with smuggle


Jalvis Quotes (VishalDutia)? Nicely done, if somber.

Behind the courage We hide our fears Below the laughter Are hidden tears Beneath the skin we hide our souls Behind the faces we are acting roles Inside every gentleman there lies a beast Behind the calmness there is passion unleashed Behind the robes priests hide their desires Beneath the smiles We hide our fires […]

via Behind … #Poetry — Jalvis Quotes