2-10 May 1969

Write this decades ago. Saved by my birth date: missed Nixon’s birth “lottery.”

May 1969

Nixon’s Draft Lottery. 5-25-47: mine was 361.
That night beer poured down my throat
in a Yankton SD bar under cigarette fog
and staggering to the dorm I swayed on a mast.

I missed his homecoming:

He was on the Big Bird of Paradise,
rising over the South China Sea.
Purple hearts aren’t pinned over shrapnel scars
but Lady Luck trumped a bad, bad hand.
The air conditioner froze their bodies,
gaunt from sticky, breath-sucking heat.
Flashbacks—hooch hut scenes, artillery thunder,
swollen foot pain.

In thirty-five hours they land at Homeport USA.
Dressed in fatigues, a few wear medals.
At baggage claim this kid slurping a candy bar
“How many did ya kill?” A suit says nothing,
Stares, shakes his head. Porters whisper.
Old ladies point.

Stink sticks forever.
smell streams quickest to memory’s heart:
napalm incinerating flesh—rice-paddy muck—
rain forest heat—diesel fuel in latrines—
happy smoke—spurting blood—
M16 smoke.

As he walks from baggage claim,
the score today was VC-7 / US-41.
Generals keep score; body baggers keep quiet.

.                     .

A swarm of Cong charges, black pajamas
spreading into bat wings, hover
to drop frag grenades. His M16 jams.
His buddy explodes into flesh confetti.

He jumps from a crumpled bed, dripping, panting . . .