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  • walked along the deck
    among the whirring winches lifting ammunition
    pallets high above the non-skid coated
    steel deck, cables paying out the load
    to smaller ships, destroyers, frigates,
    cruisers, lined up alongside and behind
    us like a row of cars awaiting fuel,
    naval gunshells, preparing for the tet,
    soon to anchor bow and stern and arc
    their barrels sending penetration fire
    over shallow seas and humid jungle
    toward map coordinates from coded messages
    from generals who could not see

    torsos cut in half or missing
    arms and legs and never heard
    the screaming pidgin english sobs
    offering an obscene act to end
    the torture of the grotesquely twisted
    infant in her arms, never watched
    the children burying their families
    walking through rice paddies
    in search of anti personnel mines
    to join them in their permanent

    escape. As I walked back
    to the steel coffin of my bunk,
    I knew my nightmares would soon
    belong to another, and could not help
    remembering her grateful moans
    in answer to a single bullet.

    When I laid down,
    in the darkness,
    waiting for exhaustion to collapse the mind,
    I heard the guns

    and could not sleep.

    [Photo: U.S.S. Camden AOE-2, Tonkin Gulf, 1973...I'm the guy on the left.]
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