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Bete Niore (the Black Beast) (poem)
By Paul Hellweg
3rd Platoon, L Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment,
17 August 1968.
Sitting atop a landmine, unheeding,
caring more about the staccato poppings
of machine guns, assault rifles, and
the occasional wham-bam-haven't-we-met-before concussion
of the lonely grenade,
shrapnel seeking human contact,
bullets craving fleshly embrace.
Choir off key,
someone tone deaf.
RPG coming in with a sigh
the landmine adds its voice to the chorus.
Fifteen feet up,
not comprehending beauty of cobalt sky
nor cotton-puff clouds,
my body cartwheels,
looking down into the belly of the black one,
gravity does what gravity must, and
I meet the beast,
maw open wide in greeting.
- Paul Hellweg
Paul Hellweg served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Xuan Loc in 1968. He is a member of both Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and he is devoting his life to speaking out against war.