Make your own free website on Tripod.com

haikumania

War Crimes - Dong Ha Haiku

As part of its War Crimes project haikumania presents Dong Ha Haiku by Ty Hadman. This piece was first published in 1982 by Smythe-Waithe Press in Kentfield, CA  and remains a powerful piece of work - paul t conneally December 8, 2000.

 

DONG HA HAIKU

 
(Dong Ha was one of the poorest villages in South Vietnam in the province of Quang Tri, just a few miles south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) near the Cua Viet River where I was stationed in the Marines with a rifle company from 2/29/68Ė4/3/69.)

 

this one last kiss
      before I leave for the war
            this winter

(Travis Air Force Base, CA
 February 23, 1968)

 

duskís darkness deepens
   along the lines the whispering
       of tonightís password

 

Iíve got the jitters . . ....
no sign of movement
except these fireflies

 

no enemy seen
but I get a good look
at myself

 

the first letter
from his girlfriend arrives
she says sheís pregnant

 

in the rear truck
of a long convoy
the dusty road

 

sugarcane fields
the beautiful countryside
swarming with snipers

 

concertina wire
a water buffalo
wiggles through

 

Concertina wire is a type of coiled barbed wire used to make it more difficult for the enemy to sneak across the lines.

 

sweeping the road
for antipersonnel mines
the sun gets hotter

 

rust colored water
not even enough
to bathe with

 

The scarcity of water was a permanent situation. Only commissioned officers were permitted to use water to bathe. The rest of us either had to go months on end without bathing or take our chances bathing in the shallow river where enemy snipers were often waiting. I came down with amoebic dysentery twice and was hospitalized on both occasions due to having to drink the filthy water. Medicinal plants have helped me a lot over the years, but I still suffer from colitis to this day.

 
heavy casualties;
I donít give a damn about
this moon tonight

 

survivors in small boats
looking for a new place to live
the war drags on and on

 

minute by minute
hour after hour
the days go by

 

filling sand bags in the hot sun
soul brothers singing
soul music

 
Filling sand bags under a hot sun in high humidity was a frequent activity. They were used mainly to build new bunkers or fortify old ones. They were also used to hold down the tin roofs of Quonset huts during the monsoons.

 

because of this war
I become close friends
with an American Indian

 

men
killing
men

 

itís quite impossible
to kill all of them ó
mosquitoes attack!

 

Many of the mosquitoes carried malaria and other nasty tropical diseases.

 

crickets stop chirping
I awake
with a start!

 

that fat rat just stares

inside the bunker
in the candlelight

my bayonet gleams

 

War is HELL!
Along the DMZ
not one flower

(Khe Sahn)
 

The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) separated North Vietnam from South Vietnam. The area was an eerie sight like the cratered surface of the moon. All vegetation had been destroyed by the bombing and use of chemical defoliants.

 

peace symbol
and the word LOVE
on his helmet

 

village off limits
sheís glad
I came

 

Tet:
both armies
wet

 

Tet is the month of the Vietnamese New Year and Buddhist religious celebrations and observances according to the old agrarian lunar calendar. A time of strength and strong beliefs. The Viet Cong launched their bloodiest attacks and offensives during this time. I had the misfortune of having to experience two Tets. It also marks the short but intense rainy season and monsoons.
 

rain . . .
blood
& mud

 

rain soaked and cold
without moving an inch
I let the warm urine flow

 

sitting in a hole
wondering what the hell
am I doing here?

 

waiting in ambush . . .
our hands touch as he hands me
an extra grenade

 

returning to camp
with one less buddy
darkness deepens

 

suffering from battle fatigue,
the war came to an end
in a dream

 

dead bodies arrive
the soldier on duty
continues eating

 

Little kids yelling,
"You number One! Want boom-boom?
Want Coca-Cola?"

 

Boom-boom was the word they used for prostitute. They also offered bags of opium and marijuana. Absolutely nothing else except for bottles of Coke. It seems these are the three things you can find just about anywhere you go in the world even in places of extreme poverty where food and water are not available.

 
my 21st birthday
oh how Iíve aged
this past year

(February 9, 1969)

 

dawn
only ONE man
dead

 

waiting for a flight out
I watch several new men arrive
and a tear appears

 

Written on my last day in Vietnam while waiting on the airstrip.

 

the crying boy
just canít understand why
I broke his toy machine gun

 

Iím now back in the United States again.

 

Memorial Day service ó
a young man prays hard
handless

 

shaking his cup
of coins with vehemence
the crippled vet

 

All work is copyrighted by Ty Hadman and should not be reproduced without permission.

Next link: Marine Boot Camp

War Crimes Index

Back to haikumania