Charles Schwiderski

Thac Bac - the Silver Waterfall: Northwest Vietnam
Thac Bac - the Silver Waterfall
Northwest Vietnam

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: June 18, 2005
Awarded: June 18, 2005

It was the dry season… all mountain streams were
dry… the time of no real water except in the valley
streams below… even the land leeches were gone for
now… buried in the earth’s moisture below

We had humped since late yesterday with empty
canteens and today was a hot, grueling hump
so very hot
so rugged
so steep
so hard to move on
everyone so very thirsty, so dry

How could this be a rain forest with no water and
no rain?

We took what water we could from the jungle vines
… collected the nighttime condensation that flowed
down a crease in our poncho-half shelters into a
eagerly waiting canteen cup… munched on leaves for
what value there was… but real water was in the
valley below

The map showed close lines, lots of close lines, then
a blue line in the valley below… we were moving down
it seems

In valley below, where the blue line showed, there
might not be water but should at least be young
bamboo with wonderful sweat water between the joints

We moved down that mountain to the blue line below:
… why am I sweating out what precious water my body
holds… I need water

Down and down we went… everyone eager for what waited
below… it seemed no one cared about the death that
might lurk… only for the water that might be there

We reached flatter earth and moved steadily on
… according to my map the blue line is that way… why
are we moving this way?????

We moved what seemed parallel to the blue line and
after awhile we could hear water running but we kept
going the wrong way… why didn’t the Scout Company
Commander take us to the running water, to the blue
line where water was rushing and waiting???

The sound of rushing water made us that much thirstier
that much hotter
that much weaker

We kept going parallel to the sound of rushing water,
the blue line… the life giving… life saving water… please
go towards the water… I can’t keep going on

Then like a miracle we moved toward the sound, broke
through a thicket of bamboo and there was the most
beautiful waterfall I have ever seen… so beautiful, so
cool and refreshing… filling the body with life

Even today I would like to return to that waterfall
… one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, but
now almost impossible to find… for that waterfall was
not on my map and the location of the blue line is long