From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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brief encounter (poem)

By Dayl Wise

Do you remember him?
Pulled you out of the lake,
that fall day in 67.
I was in high school.

Your ride, a Skyhawk bomber
missile struck. After ejecting
parachute cord tangled,
a hard landing, in small lake,
middle of Hanoi, where you
just dropped bombs, or were about to.

You were drowning,
both arms broken, leg too.
What were you thinking
as you sunk in the still water?

What a sight you must have been,
falling like a spinning leaf.
Around and around till the splash.
Hardened men don't float.

At height of the air raid,
from a bomb shelter,
a yellow man emerges,
dragging two large bamboo poles.
He enters the lake,
along with a neighbor and
swims toward your broken body,
while others are dead or dying.

Pulled, barely conscious
to the surface, they
drag you ashore,
on a makeshift pontoon
like a trophy. At the bank
a mob of 100 wait...

Kicking, spitting, a rifle butt
breaking a shoulder, stabbing your leg.
The pair drives them off,
saving your life a second time.

Your 1999 autobiography,
no mention of him
that day he saved your life.
Though, in 95 you meet him in Hanoi.

His name is Mai Van On,
Died at 88 in 1998.

— Dayl Wise

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