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His Life in His Poetry. Born 1947 in Bogalusa, Louisiana Served in the Army 1965-67 in Vietnam, earning a Bronze star. Correspondent and editor for Southern Cross, a military newspaper. After service, completed B.A., M.A., and M.F.A. Degrees in 1979. Themes from his life. Racism War

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his life in his poetry
His Life in His Poetry

Born 1947 in Bogalusa, Louisiana

Served in the Army 1965-67 in Vietnam, earning a Bronze star.

Correspondent and editor for Southern Cross, a military newspaper.

After service, completed B.A., M.A., and M.F.A. Degrees in 1979

themes from his life
Themes from his life

Racism

War

Jazz and the Blues

tu do street
Tu Do Street

Musicdivides the evening. I close my eyes & can see men drawing lines in the dust. America pushes through the membrane of mist & smoke, & I'm a small boy again in Bogalusa. White Only signs & Hank Snow. But tonight I walk into a place where bar girls fade like tropical birds. When I order a beer, the mama-san behind the counter acts as if she can't understand, while her eyes skirt each white face, as Hank Williams calls from the psychedelic jukebox. We have played Judas where only machine-gun fire brings us together. Down the street blackGIshold to their turf also. An off-limits sign pulls me deeper into alleys, as I look for a softness behind these voices wounded by their beauty & war.Back in the bush at Dak To & KheSanh, we foughtthe brothers of these women we now run to hold in our arms. There's more than a nation inside us, as black & white soldiers touch the same lovers minutes apart, tasting each other's breath, without knowing these rooms run into each other like tunnels leading to the underworld.

war and imagery
War and Imagery

War leaves lasting images in one’s mind.

please
Please

Forgive me, soldier.   

Forgive my right hand   

for pointing you

to the flawless

tree line now

outlined in my brain.   

There was so much   

bloodsky at daybreak

in Pleiku, but I won’t say

those infernal guns

blinded me on that hill.

Mistakes piled up men like clouds   

pushed to the dark side.

Sometimes I try to retrace

them, running

fingers down the map

telling less than a woman’s body—

we followed the grid coordinates

in some battalion commander’s mind.   

If I could make my mouth

unsay those orders,

I’d holler: Don’t

move a muscle. Stay put,

keep your fucking head

down, soldier.

Ambush. Gutsmoke.

Last night while making love

I cried out, Hit the dirt!

I’ve tried to swallow my tongue.

You were a greenhorn, so fearless,   

even foolish, & when I said go,

Henry, you went dancing on a red string   

of bullets from that tree line

as it moved from a low cloud.