The first is a found poem* taken down while watching an old Vera episode. The second was written after watching several episodes of Vietnam in HD. It probably is unfinished so I can’t really call it an essay.
that ruck at the nightclub
There were complaints. Seems it was a pattern. One that could get him the jotters.
A poxy little complaint
Heard he was taking backhanders
It’s okay, Kyle
Dead in the pond.
You need anything, you call me.
Going a fair old lick there, pet.
What’s going on with Gary?
And your coat was on a shaky peg as it was.
Now sit down
Kyle being Kyle he makes a pig’s ear out of it.
Vietnam in HD
Vietnam in HD shows so much up close and devastating. Helicopters roaring in for the injured, close-ups of bandaged heads, missing limbs, following soldiers through jungle terrain with invisible enemy combatants near.
No episode about strategy ever makes sense. They are going west on such and such a road, helicopters flanking to the south. What? To what end? And when a vet reflects later and says he could see the campaign wasn’t working, what I want to know is how he’d have known it WAS working? It all seems a terrible waste.
But here’s a surprise. The sense of love I feel for these young men. I’m not a person who walks through life feeling love at random moments or even, necessarily, at heightened personal moments. I know people who are like that and often wish to be more like them.
So it’s an extra surprise this love. Those boys, I think, over and over. Oh, those boys.
I love their bravery and their cynicism. I love their bare chests and the line of their jaws beneath their helmets. I love how their pants hang off narrow hips.
I remember in a way I forget to remember what it feels like to lust after a young man. I’m more team Janelle Monae than George Clooney these days and needless to say my husband hasn’t been a young man for decades.
Maybe it’s the music. Rock n’ roll — all familiar, all capable of tripping a rolling and powerful nostalgia. I was 17 at the fall of Saigon, too young for the earlier peace protests, too young for Woodstock, but a perfect age to love Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.
At the beginning of the Tet Offensive, I was ten. It feels important to do the math. There’s so much I wasn’t paying attention to, but the fact and images of the war were nevertheless inescapable. I can’t remember what I thought of the soldiers back then. I doubt I considered them as peers. Certainly wasn’t drawn to them. I DO remember making a beaded necklace that spelled PEACE in Morse Code in the quiet solitude of my bedroom.
Last night I watched scenes from the largest protest by veterans in our history. One after another, they threw their medals into the reflecting pond in D.C. I got choked up, so much damage visible, even in the men who were not in wheelchairs.
Once upon a time I was courted by two Vietnam veterans. One with a puppy dog persistence that struck me as benign, maybe even cute. He’d grown a beard since his service and gotten fat. I wasn’t cruel or dismissive, but he wasn’t necessarily real to me.
The other I allowed to get a little closer because of his bad boy vibe. Blond, hairless chest, on the short side, gorgeous skin. Definitely my type (except for the hair color). It was frightening to discover how very disturbed he was. He may have been a sociopath or he may have been a regular person damaged enough to harbor homicidal tendencies.
But those boys in HD! Smoking, always smoking. At work, oiling the big guns. At work, cleaning their rifles. Slim waists. Beautiful shoulders. I remember what it was to want to get near enough to smell the object of my desire and to feel his warm breath on my neck.
Age mutes things and so does raising sons. How unseemly (or worse) it would’ve been to notice how beautiful my teenaged boys were — or the same about their friends, a possee of boys turning into men, unaware yet of all that life would deal out to them, unsure of their sexuality, and nearly to a boy unaware of their beauty. And beautiful.
* To create a found poem I write down phrases as spoken and in the order they were spoken.