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Passing in Front of the Flag
By Larry Craig (reviewer)
Ghost of a Person Passing in Front of the Flag
by D F Brown
(Bloomsday Literary , 2018)
January 2, 2019, 4:45 AM. I sat down to read this book of poetry thinking, I don't read poetry, I don't know poetry, what can poetry have to do with Vietnam. Well, as you may have guessed, I was soon hooked.
Whatever Happens Merges on page 7 pulled me in.
The first day I didn't know
How far to anywhere
Though the sarge pointed out
Left and right
Laced in triple concertina wire,
Enlisted outhouse, commo trench
And wiring to the claymores—
All I saw was leaky sandbags
In a blast wall around the ammo
And the sun's red knot at the horizon.
Then night fell just like it was supposed to
And the wind whispered it's old story,
I listened close as words
To my soul squeak and squeal.
I'm wondering what makes it hit home. Is it the words? Is it the spacing? Maybe it's the impact of the short lines that make the words sink in.
Sandbagged bunkers took me to April 10th, 1967; three of my friends, Dave Fisher, Joe Kramer, and Jimmy Edwards were killed when a recoilless round exploded in their bunker. When Vern Shibla emerged from the carnage, his first words were THAT BASTARD JOHNSON.
Well, I've made it to page 7.
Soldier boys face down in the muck.
VVAW better find someone else to write this stupid fucking review. Or I could ask my friend Pat to write it. She has had several poems published. She even gets paid. Showed off her prize, an uncashed check for five dollars.
As if Nam was a place
Scraped from my brain
And scattered here explain.
The blood of a beautiful Vietnamese child spurts in my brain every day. The West Point Captain who shot him in the back said, "This is the way you win a war," as he handed the M-16 back to the grunt who had courageously missed by a mile.
I put the book down and looked at the photo of D.F. Brown on the book. For some strange reason, I realized I love the hapless fucker who wrote on page 34 about the war no one wanted anymore.
So they gave it to the children,
Let them play with death
Watched them die on TV during supper.
Read the book, and you will forever think like the kid who said, "It means I don't have a daddy anymore," when some old fart asked if he knew what the war memorial on Main Street meant.
Larry Craig was awarded the Bronze Star for coverage of Operation Junction City in 1967.
He testified in Detroit at the Howard Johnsons about war crimes in Vietnam.