We prowled that part of the base at midnight,

high on crowbars and beer. We smashed car lights

and ripped the chrome off doors. Nothing beat

being drunk enough to die when bar girls screamed

and rockets fell like stars, one more

Cadillac dismantled upside down. We swore

whoever owned such cars were black-market heads

or Vietcong cousins who wanted us dead,

boys whose war crashed down in darkness, the rage

of VC mortars and rockets fired at the base.

When I was ten, we met each other’s boasts

with knives, how near we could throw at toes

without flinching. One time I pitched too close,

and Joe Bob cursed and hurled the knife at me.

From then on, blades stayed closed and in our jeans.

Talk turned to girls and what to do

if we made somebody bleed. Roaring tunes

with country and western words in Saigon,

trying to ignore all falling fire, we staggered

back to sandbagged bunkers, daring the blare

of sirens to kill us, swearing we didn’t care.

Articles by Walt McDonald

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