Patriotic Fervor - 1960's

Standing against the despicable Viet Nam War, lie-based, faking Bay of Tonkin, promoting Ky, (Madame Ky, monks BBQ themselves, ha ha) and Thieu, killing thousands of our soldiers (I went to college, not my best high school buddy, a son and one on the way, didn't make it, helicopter exploding…), millions of gooks, er ... Cong ... er ... citizens of a poor Asian country, Agent Orange backfired, destroying arable land, napalm and guava bomb maiming children, Me Lai, Lie,Lie, fomenting mass protest (at last!), lame saying not against the soldiers, but NOT against the soldiers - toke up - because they were caught in a larger version of the charge of the Light Brigade, call it the Heavy Brigade PTSD, a protestor myself, protected by school and middle-class status, marcher, speaker, breaker of windows on campus to counter-act blanket bombing, we were so ineffectual but Nixon lost sleep because of us and did we shorten the war at all like we thought?, and a Moratorium of millions but peace don’t stand a chance free-lovED stoned flower children so Bring the War home Weathermen and King and Cassius had the guts but we only gave a nod to Civil Rights cause we are kids of the ruling class and loving Cuba, we went there instead of vacation, and strikes at schools, like we shut down graduation at Columbia, man! and celebrities for and against and then most of the chicken-shit Congress who had been for the war until their constituents took to the streets but Hatfield knew, then Vietnamization ruse and bombs for Christmas presents from the Tricky one and, ignoble end, Vietnamese jumping off our ships and planes as we retreated in the first loss in U.S. history to stop Communism:   NOTHING.

                        I was there for this then:

                        Two college seniors,
                        descending into the Hell of knowledge
                        down dark stairs
                        to find their draft status.
                        Joshing each other
                        long time good friends
                        covering nerves about the
                        Your birthday got a chance
                        to determine your life again.
                        Low number - go.
                        High number - stay.
                        As direct as that.
                        I was behind them on the stairs,
                        heard their nervous joking,
                        turned the corner
                        to peek at the
                        BIG BOARD.
                        You got it!
                        One low, one high.
                        Unnatural scene.
                        Sometimes you don't know how to act.
                        Joy has to hide itself from sorrow.
                        One could not celebrate before the others' pain.

                        Survivor guilt.
                        My number was low; BUT
                        it was my 26th birthday.
                        In a few days
                        I was safe.

Published in Vietnam War Poetry