Arpad Geza Breglec

Arpad is an Australian Vietnam Veteran

THE MAN WHO FOUND HIS HEAD

He lost his head,
Literally, did young Wolf.
He’d carried it with him for a long time.
Up and down Pomegalana.
Recruited to risk it.
Dizzy with grog,
in a fog between
hotels and army camps.
And when it cleared
he found himself heading north
to South Vietnam,
via Canungra
and the McPherson Ranges.
Arms, legs, torso, head,
all intact, offered live
to the gods and politicians
of a cold war…
With a hot reception.

In a confusion of mythologies
Lupus Teutonicus Australis
swallowed by Hercules
Darwin 1967 AD
and disgorged, Vung Tau
seaside resort,
wonderland of ordinary horrors,
gateway to another dimension.
Here ruled Adrenalin,
Prince of a higher state.
In a truck full of heads,
young blokes clutching SLRs
between legs, sweltering
in the excitement of terror.
Driven deep into Phouc Tuy
and deeper into themselves,
overcome with ancient urges
sweeping away spit and polish.
Requiring a new obedience
Razor instincts at fingertips.
Bouncing along the road
to Nui Dat with all the
casualness of a trip to Gundagai.

Quite a buzz for young Wolf,
being in charge of an ancient head.
Lifted on high by a mighty Chinook,
blades beating a new rhythm,
like the pulse of life itself.
Landing in a chaos
of dust, dry as the season,
emotions coiled and barbed.
Helicopters terrifying local poultry.
Sweating, Digging, hammering.
With no time to think, thank God,
until the coming of the night
and the rising tropical moon,
standing-to in utter tranquillity.
Straining to hear a mate’s whisper.
Waiting, always waiting for the VC
of your mind. The shadow within.
Aching for a shot in the dark;
For release. Jesus Christ,
for sweet release.

Strange thing that rush of blood
I mean who the hell volunteers?
(This might, or might not be
good poetry,
but every word holds true.
The hero lives. I tell his tale)
He should have known better,
but the voice in the ancient head
cried “Glory”, or so he thought.
The upshot was his hand
together with the rest of him.
First operation. First patrol –
Ten soldiers seeking a baptism.
Not an infantryman among them.
Sierra Oscar Sierra. Someone. Anyone!
They came back older
that day, eyes wide,
shining with tension
Out again in the morning.
Wolf removing family crested ring
from slender finger,
handing it, wordlessly,
to one who knew
should its last inheritor
be listed KIA.

In line. Slowly.
Barrels following eyes.
Senses taut as trip-wire.
Feet searching the earth
for treachery. Step by step.
All of life crammed into the moment.
Mille-seconds of eternity.
Time in slow motion.
Suddenly, Wolf flung into space.
Floating in a haze of debris,
soil, grass and shrapnel.
Disembodied,
self seeking for self.
Feeling for a body
Directionless.
Not knowing up or down.
Standing or lying?
He lost his head,
literally, did young Wolf.
From great depth.
Dream-like, a translucent vision
emerging, blood betraying
the co-ordinates of his hands,
like an infra-red glimpse of reality.
And a stab of pain.
Hands groping towards
the mind. Observing them,
and finding the lost head,
Oh joy! Oh life!
still connected to the spine.

In a blinding instant
Wolf saw, and knew,
lost and found,
innocence, and head,
past and future,
life and death.
He was dusted off,
in more ways than one.
Lay on a sterilised table
while they searched his flesh
for bits of metal.
Poked around in the wounded warrior.
Looking for strange things.
He brought a lot of it home
with him, did the ancient Wolf.
Scares hell out of the medicos
each time the X-ray him.
“What the hell are all those dark spots?”

And he remembers what,
and why they are.
All that was taken away from him,
and all that was given to him,
that hot, dry-season day
in a far away land
across the South China sea.
That time he lost,
and found his head.