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Vietnam Ruminations (extract)

Robert Wilson

haikumania presents extracts from Robert Wilson's "Vietnam Ruminations" more of this work can be found in the World Haiku Review - the Journal of the World Haiku Club

Vietnam Ruminations (extract)

I thought i was eating a roast beef ala water buffalo sandwich. I told
the waitress in the riverfront restaurant i was eating lunch in, "this
is good water buffalo." She looked at me like I was crazy.

no, no, she answered
waterbuffalo too expensive --
you eat dog

In almost every home i visited in rural Vietnam, there were joss sticks
and a photo or photos of deceased loved ones. It was the family

joss sticks and photos
on family mantle --

never alone
illusion painted with light
shadows speak


cobra gunship
watering the countryside
with death

Cobra gunships are military helicopters equipped with a mini-gun...a
weapon capable of shooting 500 rounds per minutes. Every third
shell was a tracer. When fired at night, it looked like something was
watering the countryside with light. Nightly, the gunships watered
the countryside, killing whatever came in its way, indescriminately.

white owl
painted the night
with whisper

the night was an eerie quiet in Vietnam. Not a sound. Even the water
said nothing. White owls were perched on a tall steel crane used
for lifting gunboats out of the bay in Dong Tam.Every once in a while,
like a small ghost, one would cut the night with its wings,
emitting a small whisper, that, due to the quiet, seemed louder than it

behind the smile
a wish ---
leave us alone

I will never forget the Vietnamese papa san who told me he didn't want
my country (the U.S.) in his country. He also said he didn't
want the communists to be there either. For over a thousand years,
Vietnam has been dominated by another country: China, France,
Japan, and the U.S. (indirectly....we had high stakes interests in
Firestone Rubber, Shell Oil, and Tungsten, to name a few). In the rural
part of Vietnam, the people live a simple, though hard life steeped
primarily in Buddhism. They could not care less about the money to be
made from Vietnam's resources. They are a beautiful people with respect
for life now and in the afterlife. Ancestor worship is
practiced in almost every home, rich or poor. No one listened then and
no one listens now. The Communist government is corrupt,
vicious, and influenced by other nations. I know Vietnamese people who
recently left their homeland due to the ruthlessness of the
government and the lack of freedom. They long every day for the country
they escaped from.

smileless people
riding on bicycles
made somewhere else

the streets of old saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, are and were filled
with thousands of people riding to and from their existence on bicycles,
tricycles, and motorbikes. Almost everyone, male and female, wore a
white shirt or blouse. Cars are rare; saved for use by local military
personnel and high ranking Communist Party officials. Vietnam is one of
the poorest nations on earth. The people were used and exploited by
those in power when I was there and they are today, as well.. They hold
on to their memories, their faith, and their sense of family. It is
what keeps them going.

burns on her back
family murdered --
don't interfer

At the conclusion of the Tet Offensive in 1968, a girl who worked as a
laundrywoman on our base returned after a three week absence. Her back was covered with hideous
burns. Her family had been tortured and murderd. It was a reprisal for her working on our base.
She, of course, was an innocent. She worked for us to help support her economically strapped family. Her alliance was to her family, not to a political belief. Like many living in the rural provinces of Vietnam, she wanted to live a simple life free from another's tyranny.

brown water
covers a multitude
of sorrow

The Mekong River is a dirty brown, polluted river. I was stationed in
the Mekong Delta. The secrets that lay buried
beneath those waters.

The conveniences many of us take for granted are nonexistent in
the rural Vietnamese countryside. Toilets, toilet paper, sanitary
napkins, tap water, telephones, etc. are luxuries few can afford. Super
markets and drug stores are unheard of. Stooping down at river's edge
and washing laundry by hand in the filthy water is the norm. It's
been done like that for centuries. What other choice does a Vietnamese
person have? Most in the countryside barely eke out a living. No one
raises fish or contributes haiku on the internet.

washing laundry
by hand in dirty water
no koi

To little children---
Santa Claus
with an M-16

As an american soldier, I was a santa claus to Vietnamese children.
Wherever we traveled, children mobbed us and asked us for gum, money, or
candy. We were rich in their eyes. The children had charming smiles.
Many were street wise. They competed with other children for the
goodies we meted out from shallow pockets.

These children didn't see our M-16 automatic rifles as weapons of
death. They saw us as purveyors of candy and other goodies they
couldn't afford to buy.



haikumania more "Vietnam Ruminations" at World Haiku Review