Gary Jacobson

MY THOUSAND YARD STARE

An Khe Pass - Khe Sahn Hills
An Khe Pass - Khe Sahn Hills

IWVPA Bronze Helmet Top Poet Award of Excellence - January 2001
I sit at a table in the middle of the day
Looking out my window, not a lot to say.
TV blaring, newspaper in front of me unread,
People see me think I must be dead.
Talk to me,
Walk by me,
I’m totally unaware.
I’m back there!
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare!

Carried out my back yard,
Again sweating hard,
Up over the mountains,
Across the deep blue sea,
Where again Nam waits every day for me.
Again loaded for bear, I’m back there,
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare!

Every day, every night,
Reliving deepest fright;
With my very soul eternally fight
The eternal fight,
Time after time,
In exhausting combat rhyme.
Doesn’t anybody for me care
Here… or there,
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare!

Hand me a bottle to drink away my sorrow,
‘Cause I don’t want to go back there tomorrow,
But I will, oh I will,
Tho’ dread does my heart fill.
I go there every day;
Tho’ God knows I try not to in every way.
For sometimes life is hard to bear
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare!

Listen, did you hear something?
Something is rustling!
Something is moving!
What’s that in the tree line?
Pass that Thunderbird wine.
Did something behind that bush move there?
Please Lord, I don’t want to go back there,
Back to the end of my Thousand Yard Stare!

Were we wrong, or were we right?
I still don’t know!
Either way, I still had to go.
Doesn’t matter, we still had to fight,
Giving our all in heart pumping might?
We had no choice but walking the park
From dawn to dark,
Humping, sweating, grunting,
Thinking of dying.
I couldn’t then, but now I can
Cry…
With the eternal question why?
Did I Vietnam’s fragrant fabric of life tear,
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare!

I’m once again on combat patrol,
Going crazy In this jungle hell hole,
Again fearing my old friend death
Afraid to take a deep breath
Less someone hear me that’s trying to kill,
This infantryman once again primed to kill…
Don’t touch me unless you too wish to die
Out in the killing zone,
Again far from home,
Lost and so all alone
Watching friends bleed and die there,
Wondering why is it not me back there,
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare!

Then I see him
Hovering In jungled light dim,
Grinning grotesquely,
Hideously,
At me.
My Vietcong brother,
Causes an involuntarily shudder,
For death once again rides sweet and sour air,
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare!

My heart floods with anguish
That years cannot extinguish.
My sanity I again relinquish
Seeing again the man I killed so long ago,
Grinning so,
My erstwhile foe,
Waiting for me back there
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare!

Did I really kill him?
Or did he kill me?
In my PTSD it’s so hard to see.
Will he finally set me free,
From my daily tour back there,
To the end of my Thousand Yard Stare?

Is that old Vietcong haunting me
Or am I haunting him?
Will Charley this time my blood spill on the ground?
Will I fall without a sound,
Again in suffering despair,
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare?

Suddenly again there’s smoke
A deafening roar that the dead awoke.
Comes a pungent smell,
That acrid smell of death, reminiscent of hell
That old Vietcong’s lying on the ground
Without a sound,
Without a face,
No more his family to grace.
Again there’s a tear in my eye
As I silently wonder why this man had to die?
Forlornly, Horribly
Moldering in his grave back there,
Why is it not me back there,
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare?

Hours later I’m back at my table,
Back from a world grisly unstable,
Back from my thousand Yard Stare.
But I know he’s still waiting back there,
Of this I’m certain, for I’ll see him tomorrow,
When fevered winds blow.
Again I’ll cry.
Maybe this time I’ll die!

Why Lord, can’t I contented be
In the arms of my lofty mountain safety,
The purple plains majesty,
Home again in the land of the free,
In the loving arms of my family?
Why do stresses of Nam yet bind,
Imbedded in my fevered mind?
Why can’t I give it a rest?
Didn’t I pass the test?
Why God, do I have to go back where
Men hate me there,
Intently try to kill me there
At the end of my Thousand Yard Stare?

When you see my thousand Yard Stare,
You’ll know I’m back there,
To face another dawn,
Again searching for the Vietcong!
Will you miss me when I’m gone?