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Page 34
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<< 33. Been There Done That (poem)35. Wounds of War >>

We Did What We Could (poem)

By rg cantalupo

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We fired on the trees

because their shadows

looked like men.

We torched the hootches

because we saw rifles

entering or leaving

doorways in the dark.

We strung wire around

a rice paddy and called it ours

for a day. We did what

we could, what we were

ordered to do. We didn't

like it. We didn't think it was

right or good. But we did it—

what else was there to do?

Some stayed in the valley,

some on the mountain

with no name, some in

the Ho Bo Woods, some in

the jungle in Cambodia. Some

died later of internal wounds.

And some are still out there

on a street some where.

Each of us left something

we loved behind—a girl,

an unsent letter, a luckless

Saint Christopher, a purple

heart, a friend. We did what

we could, what was asked

of us. It wasn't enough.

Not for us. Not for our time.

Not enough to keep the dead

from rising with their fists

full of weeds, nor enough to stop

the living from cradling them

in their nights of terror.

—rg cantalupo

<< 33. Been There Done That (poem)35. Wounds of War >>