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.

This Week: Poems


This week, I'm going to do an uncomfortable thing (for me): I'm forcing myself to post some poetry. I'll put out a few poems over the next few days, and see if I can survive the squeamish feeling I predict I'll experience.

The poems are still drafts, still works-in-progress, but also have important things to say (I hope). Feel free to let me know what you think, and I'd even welcome some constructive feedback if you feel up to it.

Here's the first of the week.


Two inches is all one needs to hang a life up, a life nearly drowned and choked. Let it dry out over the warm rocks like used towels gorged with water, dripping drops of burden.

A two-inch ledge-- my ice-white fingers hold fast to stone and sanity. As I climb, there is only the sun-baked face of this cliff and me, back to the horizon.

Big sky out and above, tiny ground beneath me, and I hang from a rope taut like my forearms and my legs, my fingertips and toes, my ribcage and the clenched heart inside it.

The cliff, strangely, speaks to me through stone and silence, wrinkled and weathered cracks, its calm, unmoving composure. It seems content to let me take from it whatever I need, and so I breathe in peace from its lungs, breathe out heartbreak from mine.

This mountainside born of slow, painful extraction and erosion, is where I strain, where I tremble, dangle and dance, where I flirt with and find life.

Like a child throwing stones into a pond to hear each one drop and sink to the depths, I watch my vices crumble, my dead weight, stress and shrapnel, wreckage and ruin

fall and tumble and fade below and away.