Gary Jacobson


“When was I in Vietnam?”
You ask a normal appearing man
Hiding behind civility’s mask
Reminding him of that vile war
The war gentle folk just abhor
Hey, man. I was there just last night
Haunted still by memories yet giving me fright
Ferociously fighting macabre foes with fevered might.

Hey man, I remember too well
My time in hell
I was just there last night
Again patrolling the park till dawns first light
Again riding steel horses to that bestial ogre war
That great whore
That took so many young lives
Cutting hearts out of families with a thousand knives.

Yes, I was just there last night
In the Nam once again fighting that awful fight
To the depths of my soul feeling war’s cankered bite
Still feeling all round the dying … Still crying
Feeling again the piercing shrapnel wounding
Reliving barbed wire terrors of a terrible past
Gory blood and death of the warrior’s blast
The Nam still taking lives … but not the bloody last.

Yes, I was just there last night
Every night I fight again the valiant fight
Every day and night for forty years
Again and again… Reliving beaucoup tears
Reliving the pain. Reliving constant fears
I go to bed with it. I wake up with it
Memories too painful
The sense of loss too awful.

I was just there in the Nam last night
Again contending for the blessed right
Guess I’ll wear war’s memories the rest of my life
So might as well get used to grotesque strife
During sex with my wife.
On my way to work this morning.
Over my lunch hour.
Yeah, I was there. Ain’t it a freakin’ despair!

People say I’m not the same man
Who went to sweet-and-sour Vietnam
I changed when death was with us all the time
Because we were in the business of death’s rhyme
Now I don’t let anybody get too close to me
Not my wife … not anybody
I can’t afford friends, you see
It’s too risky when friends die too easily.

Veterans know, you hurt when they die
Death leaves a hole in your heart, I’ll tell you no lie
You see their faces. You see their haunting eye
Their death so real it haunts the mind.
Obsessions with death linger long, bitterly unkind
When dying is that real
When kill or be killed is the Devil’s deal
Friends in combat become a real liability
I can’t afford ‘em mid war’s grim adversity.

Nam’s rotting jungle fragrance clogs my nostrils
Every night reeks of imminent danger perils
Every night so thick I can taste it
Every night so I’ll never forget it
In the dead of night it calls to me
It obsesses me … Beckons me
Every night I still hear boys … brothers
Screaming for their mothers.

Yes, I was just in the Nam last night
So I make sure my house is secure and tight
Guarding the perimeter of my yard patrolling
Never sleeping … watching … always waiting
Preparing for the coming attack
I still guard my back
Death more real each time you cheat it gypping
To be shot at and missed sends adrenaline rushing.

When were you in Vietnam?
Hey, man. I was there just last night
Lost again in the cruel war’s insanity
Trying again not to lose touch with my humanity
Remembering a kid with power over life and death
War gives him with fated breath
Despite all he’s been taught
Despite what loving parents wrought
Liking too much the killing power strangely thrilling
So when he’s just lost a friend
Angry, frustrated and scared no end
He’s determined, “Some asshole’s gonna pay today!”
The thought scares me. Because it’s still happening today.
Keeps me awake every night
Staring at the ceiling with awful fright.

Vietnam: A Shau Valley, 1969
Vietnam: A member of the 5th Infantry Division Mechanized
looks out over the fog-shrouded A Shau Valley, 1969