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THE VETERAN

Page 34

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Ambush on The Street Without Joy (poem)

By Paul Hellweg

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Ambushed Friday, late afternoon,
tracers etching fiery lines in the dusk,
Spooky flares silhouetting clouds.
Fourth of July on April 18th,
year of the Cock.

Saturday evening barbecuing steaks,
Tuy Hoa Officer's Club,
breakers rolling in on the South China Sea.
Budweisers cold and dewy,
buzzed and pumped, my XO and I
celebrate our renewed subscription to life.
A major approaches and says
he'd been on watch the night before.
Thinking it just another instance of
frightened troops shooting at nothing,
he compliments me on the damn fine show.

He hasn't been invited to our party,
he isn't a member of our club, and
in my best imitation of an arrogant ass,
I look him in the eye and tell him
we lost three dead, four wounded.
He mumbles an apology and disappears,
leaving me alone, diminished.
In his stead, survivor's guilt cozies up,
eyes my beer, orders another.

—Paul Hellweg

Paul Hellweg served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Xuan Loc in 1968. He is a member of both VFP and VVAW, and is devoting his life to speaking out against war.


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