From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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A Gift from the State

By Horace Coleman

(On my first birthday after coming back from the war the Guard went to Kent to settle a score)

Bright cloth snapping on a pole
is not the flag.
Buildings are not the land.
History is not a true book.
We are these things.

They were accused of being young
and convicted of having hope and
wanting change.

Rash, they were.
Guilty of not loving the status quo.
Premature peace wanters.

For long hair, no bras,
and opposition,
they were executed.
Thinking their middle class skins
could shield the sins
of tired, stupid men.

Remember how they shot the girl
leaving her classroom? And the boy
walking by? And the boy who would
never walk again?

Remember how the dead ones became
dangerous revolutionaries (in their graves)
and syphilitic whores (when dirt filled their mouths)?
So the pretend soldiers could pretend
they hadn't wasted their ammo and
the towns folk could feel good about not
feeling bad.
And the people could
elect the governor again and think
the war was safe after coming home to visit.

Their lives were candles
put in a breeze.
Blown out untimely.
And no one wanted
to put out the darkness
or even curse it.

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