The Vietnamese - American Poetic Spirit

Echo of A War

Thong Ba Le

The Battlefield

There were bomb shells
scattering and hanging.
There were tree limbs
breaking and burning
among parts of bodies laying next to themselves.
Guns and rifles
were broken like toys,
wrist watches, wedding rings, survival kits
canteens and helmets were taken by kids
who were wandering in the field.

People collected everything left from the battle
for living
in a battered country that had lost
its feeling.
They concentrated on what mattered most
and did not care of what might be lost,
by the not yet exploded mines:
their legs, their arms, even their minds.

The sun also rises
and torches the battlefield, then sets
over the valley of death.
Now it's the sharp damp smell of napalm gas
and now the war, the full drama of the war
continues on the burnt land so far.

The Fallen Soldier

They removed the soldier's dog tag on that rainy day.
The camouflage-uniformed people then took him away,
throwing the helmet that rolled into a mortar trench
and stopped, upside-down, battered and gray.

He knew that he had failed to protect
his soldier who was killed by a bullet
that made the unevenly shaped hole,
in the right side of the helmet.

He felt too cold in his wintry soul.
There was nobody here so the story could be told,
aside from a friendly frog who hopped in
and sat looking at the morning sun.
Then a garden snake who lost her way
and slithered by him through the hole.

Every night he stared at the dark sky,
Each time he saw a shooting star, he cried.
Somewhere there were young soldiers,
like his man, being killed.
And the war kept going on.
And the warriors continued to die.

The Funeral

They were wearing the white head bands,
the women and her five year-old daughter,
rushed to the helicopter when it landed,
she held in her hands
her late father's picture.

The rain was falling down from a dark sky.
They came to the funeral, the mother and child.
The never-ending war took away a loved one
from the family and no one
could know why?

The coffin that kept
the unchained hero, was covered
with the nation's flag
and laid flatly in the military truck,
then carried to the grave by the uniformed soldiers.

The chaplain was praying in a low voice,
among the gunshots that made a lot of noises,
The hero finally was set free,
his soul flew to the eternity.

They accepted the flag for his honor
The country, the freedom, the people
that what he once fought for.

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