Touching Down in Vietnam Your heavy combat boots dropped down on charred soil, the helicopter dry-heaved your platoon two or three at a time, its blades beat the air, churned your stomach, flashes of light like mosquito bites and black smoke above trembling green fronds, little lead whispers slid past your ears and helmet, some bit into Tom's skull and dissected David's kneecap.

Meanwhile, the church bells of St. John's chimed down the cracked and crumbled concrete of Unity Center Road back home where people waved American flags and burned the brown and gray, draft cards set ablaze in tin coffee cans and duties erased from paper, fathers erased from future family portraits and albums, bills and blame shifted between bent hands of bureaucrats,

blood and dust, stars and stripes, your fear humid and thick like fingers around your neck, the memory of your wife's crystal smile before bed, all mixed in the scarlet trenches,

all before you took that first step to die.