Gary Jacobson


Search And Destroy
U.S. soldiers on a search-and-destroy patrol in Phuoc Tuy province
South Vietnam, June 1966.
Moving into jungled shadow
Fateful darkness surrounds
Softly ensconced
Awaiting death
In bucolic tangle concealed
Everywhere endless
Forested columns hunger
To devour youth’s innocence

Sergeants silently cajoling
Quiet lest the jungle heard
In words softly entwined
Keep’m swing’n girls
I’m not your mother
Just move one damned foot
Front of the other
Nam’s wearied shuffle

A whispered smile
From beleaguered combatants
Stepping into carpeted green
Breaking tension
Stark fear stifling
Jokes fell flat
Lost in darkening thoughts
Of dying like erstwhile companions.

Negotiating hell and shadow
Mid belligerent obsidian jungle
Darkening cracks beaming light
Did that bush move?
Endlessly feeling following death;
What’s behind that tree
Cautiously feeling its hot breath?

Stealthily amid snarls creeping
Feel the blood seeping
Rivers of sweat stream
Down pale ashen faces
Below camouflaged grime
My God.
Is Hell this hot?

Just boys next door
Gung-ho naive
Now men spread on a firing line
Slinking single file through
Labyrinths of tares
Don’t let one round
Get you all.

Look up
There’s snipers in the trees
Look down
A boobytrap’s in the ground
Blow you to smithereens
Like my good buddy Jim
His leg in a boot
All we found

Found little pieces of Jim scattered
Across punji stake fields
Bamboo spears dipped in shit
To cut you
Bring fever of war
To war without cadence
No rhyme nor reason.

Vietnam’s different
Than more civilized wars
No front nor rear here
Here abiding death’s constancy
Harboring malevolent
Irrepressible fear
Boys fading in jaded stupor.

Picking leaches
Off tough sunburned hides.
Tending jungle rot
Waiting for the end
To find you
Laughing as in a game
At the junction of life
Numb unto death.

Making memories for life
Succumb to Nam’s nothingness
Fortify ambivalent courage.
Glory long gone
To the rear echelon
Fighting a futile cause
Not allowed to win
Bloodletting green jungle turning red.

Fighting on rock and rill hills
Achieving costly victory
After countless brave actions
Abandoning our spoils
Let Vietcong back in
So we can take it again.
Again and again
Do-se-do promenade.

Men can survive their wars
Arising from jungle heat
Quicksilver unpredictable
March on with no reason why
Back and forth in the jungle
Shedding mortality
Violently deposing
A brother-in-arms normality.

Yes, Men can survive their wars
But not what they leave inside
Brave tortured souls
Its horrors hide
Tendrils of troubadours shoot
Up to eternity.