Thurman P. Woodfork


Trang Sup and Nui Ba Den. Photograph Courtesy of David Honey
Trang Sup and Nui Ba Den. Photograph Courtesy of David Honey
I was in Vietnam last night;
I know, for when I awoke, I had cried.
I suppose the reason was because
someone I knew had died.

The thoughts I’d kept at bay all day
grew like noxious weeds and bloomed,
and the aroma that they gave off
carried the scent of impending doom:

The smell of rotting jungle plants,
the pungent odor of nouc mam,
the acrid stink of powder smoke,
mingled with the reek of napalm,

slowly filled my nostrils
as memories were evoked
of firefights, Dustoffs, air strikes,
and drifting, colored smoke…

I heard a guitar softly strummed;
I was holding a rusty can of beer.
For a time the war faded back a bit,
along with the ever-present fear.

My thoughts shifted across the seas
to that other life I knew:
tinkering with cars, going on dates,
and hanging out drinking brew.

I wondered if I could ever be part
of those carefree days once again
when thoughts of death never crossed
my mind… I was immortal then.

It seems I grew up all at once,
learned things I never wanted to know;
last night old ghosts came drifting back,
like softly falling snow…

And they chilled the nighttime hours
when I should’ve been sound asleep,
crept into my ears, stole up my nose,
and caused my eyes to weep.

I was in Vietnam last night,
where my youth suddenly came to an end.
Along with peace and tranquility,
and some very special friends.

Author’s Note: For my friends Dave Stevenson and Ray Greiner, who sometimes travel afar at night