Anthony W. Pahl

GREEN TO BROWN

Our chopper sat on Kanga Pad
beneath the hill at Nui Dat
while we lazed about the alert crew hut.
Minds bored, we tried to nap.

The field phone buzzed its tinny ring.
We sat up with a start.
Dust-off? Hot extraction? Re-supply?
Regardless, we’d play our part.

But our foreheads cringed, as did our minds,
as the mission became known.
We were tasked to fly to assist the Yanks
to destroy the jungle crown.

The techos worked to secure the banks of speakers to the craft.
The psy-ops people jumped aboard as we set off on our task.

We headed east to the selected sight
flying above the jungle crown.
While the speakers blared in a foreign tongue
I could only frown.

“Leave the area, we’re spraying soon!
Give up and save your lives.
We’re spraying the jungle in half an hour!
Give up or you will die!”

Trailing vilest mist, the Yanks flew in.
We followed in the spray.
“The jungle will die – and so will you.
We warned – now you must pay!”

Two weeks passed by until we flew again
over the jungle sprayed that day.
No green was seen – the jungle dead.
How much nature did we maim?

I reminisce about those times with dread
and wonder what went wrong.
Why did we want to fight a war
with effects that last so long?

I ponder now, if I had the chance
to relive those times again…
What worth are toxic jungles
and human lives and pain?

If we flew over our great south land
to view it from above
surveying the forest land laid bare
would we still be able to love?

Are we doing now as then but in a different way?

Because the effect’s the same,
our greed’s laid bare
and our children – they must pay!