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Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com
https://hellopoetry.com/lawrence-hall/
poeticdrivel.blogspot.com

                                    I­ndochine - An Anniversary of Sorts

On the 26th of October 1970 I returned from 18th months in Viet-Nam and a brief side-trip into Cambodia. I was literally just a boy off the farm when I went, and was still quite young when I wrote the following artless lines, with their conventional allusions, forced rhymes, and usage errors, on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th anniversaries. Perhaps there is one from the 1st anniversary, but I can’t find it. Well, we are all are looking for something most days: a poem, truth, meaning, or some other trifle.


…the war – the frights…the smell of h.e., the horribly smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the…corpses…all this shows rarely and faintly in memory…and often seems to have happened to someone else.

        -C. S. Lewis, “Guns and Good Company,” Surprised by Joy


                                        26 October 1972

The pecans are falling now
Onto the court-house lawn
Geese fly overhead, southbound
Misty dusk and chilly dawn

Two year from Viet-Nam
Two eternities from the Vam Co Tay
Elections now, and speeches
And I guess I’ll have my say

But the finality briefly denied me
Found many another man
And they’re not here for elections
And Autumn on the land

                                            26 October 1973

I sit and smoke my pipe and think
Of things that I have seen
Easter seals and steering wheels
And jungle hot and green

I sit and smoke my pipe and ponder
The imponderable of God and man
The evening star over a flare-lit war
And souls as grains of sand

I sit and smoke my pipe and mourn
For the murdered

Many miles, and three years today
From the muddy, ****** waters
Of the Vam Co Tay

                                         26 October 1974

Many miles
And four years today
From the muddy, ****** waters
Of the Vam Co Tay

All the death-hurt eases
And dreams are quieter now
But the hurting never ceases
And I can’t see when it will, or how

Four Octobers
Four Autumns today
From rain drizzling on the slimy banks
Of the Van Co Tay

“Go and make the world safe for democracy –
Like we did in 1917,” my aged ancestor said
Dear old man, he never lived to know
That sort of thing is dead

Grim memories
Of flare-lit nights and steaming days
Of men dying screaming
On the Vam Co Tay

The finality briefly denied me
Found many another man
And they’re not seeing the wild geese flying
Or Autumn on the land

Many miles
And four years today
From the muddy, ****** waters
Of the Vam Co Tay
A poem is itself; memories are doubtful.
Privilege
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to Harvey Stanbrough, an ex-marine who has written eloquently about the horror and absurdity of war in "Lessons for a Barren Population."

No, I will never know
what you saw or what you felt,
****** into the maw of Eternity,

watching the mortars nightly
greedily making their rounds,
hearing the soft damp hiss

of men’s souls like helium escaping
their collapsing torn bodies,
or lying alone, feeling the great roar

of your own heart.
But I know:
there is a bitter knowledge

of death I have not achieved,
and in thankful ignorance,
and especially for my son

and for all who benefit so easily
at so unthinkable a price,
I thank you.

Published by Romantics Quarterly, Poetic Reflections and Poetry SuperHighway. Keywords/Tags: Vietnam War, maw, mortars, rounds, souls, escaping, bodies, corpses, death, heart, roar, bitter, knowledge, thanks, thank you, service, honor, duty, courage, bravery, heroism, patriotism
Marco Apr 9
the tide, a never-ending olive green
the advance made silently in
the pitch black night,
dark as the leather on their feet.

wading through the water
a muddy yellow tinged with blood
dripping like machine gun fire
opened fire in the jungle thicket

the river is full of them
treading panic water  to escape
treading on landmines -
little pots of death leaving crates,
cutting arms, legs, limbs gone,
lost in the panic water

soldiers in the river,
men in the panic water,
friends in the throes of death
clinging to each other,
kissing olive canvas with red lips
"Tell my girl I love her if I don't make it back!"
holding each other while holding their breath
listening, listening for the next agent to fall
like rain

and orange the rain on viet cong,
the american hatred dropping like bombs,
on ferns and palm trees losing their green
on children losing their voices from all the screaming and crying
their fathers tired of fighting and hanging loose
like landmine limbs,
in the reeds by the river,
waiting for death.
Ali's Song
by Michael R. Burch

for Muhammad Ali

They say that gold don't tarnish. It ain't so.
They say it has a wild, unearthly glow.
A man can be more beautiful, more wild.
I flung their medal to the river, child.
I flung their medal to the river, child.

They hung their coin around my neck; they made
my name a bridle, "called a ***** a *****."
They say their gold is pure. I say defiled.
I flung their slave's name to the river, child.
I flung their slave's name to the river, child.

Ain't got no quarrel with no Viet Cong
that never called me ******, did me wrong.
A man can't be lukewarm, 'cause God hates mild.
I flung their notice to the river, child.
I flung their notice to the river, child.

They said, "Now here's your bullet and your gun,
and there's your cell: we're waiting, you choose one."
At first I groaned aloud, but then I smiled.
I gave their "future" to the river, child.
I gave their "future" to the river, child.

My face reflected up, dark bronze like gold,
a coin God stamped in His own image—BOLD.
My blood boiled like that river—strange and wild.
I died to hate in that dark river, child,
Come, be reborn in this bright river, child.

The poem above has been set to music in a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong.

You are free to copy the poem for noncommercial use, such as a school project, essay or report, or just because you like it and want to share, but please credit Michael R. Burch as the author.

NOTES: (1) Muhammad Ali said that he threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after experiencing racism in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Confirming his account, the medal was recovered by Robert Bradbury and his wife Pattie in 2014 during the Annual Ohio River Sweep. The Ali family paid $200,000 to regain possession of the medal. Ali later made a joke about the incident that caused him to toss his medal into the river. He said that he took his medal into a white downtown restaurant and ordered a cheeseburger. The waitress told him, "We don't serve negroes." Ali replied, "I don't eat them either. Just bring me a cheeseburger!" (2) When drafted during the Vietnam War, Ali refused induction, reputedly saying: "I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong; no Vietnamese ever called me a ******." (3) The notice mentioned in my poem is Ali's draft notice, which metaphorically gets tossed into the river along with his slave name. (4) The poem was originally published by the literary journal Black Medina. It has since been published by Other Voices International, Thanal Online, Freshet, Poems About and Poem List.



For Ali, Fighting Time
by Michael R. Burch

So now your speech is not as clear . . .
time took its toll each telling year . . .
and O how tragic that your art,
so brutal, broke your savage heart.

But we who cheered each blow that fell
within that ring of torrent hell
never dreamed to see you maimed,
bowed and bloodied, listless, tamed.

For you were not as other men
as we cheered and cursed you then;
no, you commanded dreams and time—
blackgold Adonis, bold, sublime.

And once your glory leapt like fire—
pure and potent. No desire
ever burned as fierce or bright.
Oh Ali, Ali . . . win this fight!



In My House
by Michael R. Burch

I was once the only caucasian in the software company I founded and managed. I had two fine young black programmers working for me, and they both had keys to my house. This poem looks back to the dark days of slavery and the Civil War it produced.

When you were in my house
you were not free—
in chains bound.

Manifest Destiny?

I was wrong;
my plantation burned to the ground.
I was wrong.

This is my song,
this is my plea:
I was wrong.

When you are in my house,
now, I am not free.

I feel the song
hurling itself back at me.

We were wrong.
This is my history.

I feel my tongue
stilting accordingly.

We were wrong;
brother, forgive me.

Published by Black Medina



Poet to poet
by Michael R. Burch

This poem imagines a discussion between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke so poetically about his dream of equality, and a poet who speaks in parentheses.

I have a dream
(pebbles in a sparkling sand)
of wondrous things.

I see children
(variations of the same man)
playing together.

Black and yellow, red and white,
(stone and flesh, a host of colors)
together at last.

I see a time
(each small child another's cousin)
when freedom shall ring.

I hear a song
(sweeter than the sea sings)
of many voices.

I hear a jubilation
(respect and love are the gifts we must bring)
shaking the land.

I have a message,
(sea shells echo, the melody rings)
the message of God.

I have a dream
(all pebbles are merely smooth fragments of stone)
of many things.

I live in hope
(all children are merely small fragments of One)
that this dream shall come true.

I have a dream . . .
(but when you're gone, won't the dream have to end?)
Oh, no, not as long as you dream my dream too!

Here, hold out your hand, let's make it come true.
(i can feel it begin)
Lovers and dreamers are poets too.
(poets are lovers and dreamers too)



I, Too, Have a Dream
by Michael R. Burch writing as “The Child Poets of Gaza”

I, too, have a dream ...
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their enmity.
I, too, have a dream ...



My Nightmare ...
by Michael R. Burch writing as “The Child Poets of Gaza”

I had a dream of Jesus!
Mama, his eyes were so kind!
But behind him I saw a billion Christians
hissing "You're nothing!," so blind.



Keywords/Tags: Muhammad Ali, boxing, violence, The Greatest, race, racism, racist, discrimination, black, slave name, Vietnam War, Olympics, gold medal, God, Muslim, Islam, Islamic, tribute, mrbali, mrbrace, mrbsport, mrbsports, mrbsong
Nicholas Mar 4
Going from a smoke bomb
to a pipe bomb
to a fire bomb
call it vietnam.
Take it to the car bomb
to the time bomb
to the flying bomb
we call the atom bomb.
Valentin Jan 11
Today in Ninh Bình
We were at the top of this mountain
Watching the sunset even though
We left before it was complete

This is not the end
The sun has not set yet
There will still be a sunshine over us

At least there will still be a light over us
The light from the full and shiny moon
Brightening over us when we rode back

The moon you are looking at now is
The moon I am looking at now
Shining bright to you
To me
To us
01.10.19
Valentin Nov 2019
My only desire is to make you smile
So that I can see through your eyes

All I ask is you to not hide your magnificent smile
So that I can see your bright eyes

It's like thousands of shining stars
Were dancing inside your pupils

It's like everytime that you smile
It's a new firework that I admire

****, those Vietnamese eyes
To make them cry would be a crime

To make them shine is
My only desire now and until I die
11.29.19
Carlo C Gomez Nov 2019
Helicopter water ballet
And Charlie's on the grid

Front and centering feng shui
Choreographed in the fields
Where ****** sticks to kids

War is the fashion
That never wears out

Smell its smoke
Sickly sweet and orange
In the early decay of morning
Inspired by the poem "Theatre" by fellow Hello Poetry writer Syed Younas
Valentin Nov 2019
Just like that impressive tree I like to pass by in Vietnam
Just like its roots growing up from the sky
Coming down into the green grass
You came down from heaven
To settle in my heart and
To grow your roots inside me
I am filled with your love
Ready to grow up and
To spread it out around me
11.05.19
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