Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | October 2, 2011

Poetry from A Chapbook on Vietnam

I’ll be publishing the chapbook, “Finding the Way Home” in November, in time for Veteran’s Day. The announcement will be on both Twitter and Facebook. Rereading the poems today, as I was formatting the manuscript was sometimes painful.
Here’s a sample:

“He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”
for Colonel “Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith

Hot and raining as it is today,
it seems appropriate,
coming down Gunter’s Mountain into the park,
hanging like tattered tapestry from hills,
rising from steaming ground and wet trees,
leaching memories of valleys in Laos and Vietnam,
where mists seemed to flow down from mountains
and pool in steep ravines,
like fog in an old horror movie,
hiding something at the bottom.

How often does a man find an obituary for a comrade
he didn’t know was gone,
in U.S. News?
While eating a sandwich at Wendy’s?

I once started a poem about things that don’t fit:
Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma in my head
while waiting in line at McDonald’s,
Achey Breaky Heart playing on the loudspeakers.
But that was all,
it was a definition, not a poem.

Today, here,
an epitaph for a warrior lies in front of me,
on the table,
slamming like an AK round,
like finding my own picture
featured in obituaries of a local paper.

I hold in my hands,
a remembrance with two pictures:
a past that we never quite left,
-strong young warriors
filled with belief and intensity.
and today’s face,
dragging almost-forgotten pains like a wounded leg
whose scars you don’t see
until a man is stripped and naked.

A picture of an aging man,
wearing his green beret,
at a Special Forces convention,
where we try through telling,
and again retelling,
remembering names of abandoned places,
pinpoints on terrain maps of the brain;
remembering names of dead soldiers, ,
carved on The Wall, and in our hearts;
you to me: me to you,
our litany of names like beads on a string,
a ceremony of incantations,
somehow to create again,
here, far downstream,
the men in old pictures.


  1. My husband, who flew Cobras in Vietnam etc., is sadly informed each time he receives a new issue of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots’ Association magazine, of the loss of more comrades. This poem captures that emotional experience so well. Thank you.

  2. Very powerful piece, Tom. You honor him with your remembrance.

    • Thank you, Larry. Beckwith was a complicated man, but essentially a warrior. Some would follow him directly into hellfire. Others thought he was too pushy.

      In the words of an Army Vet, “He was like Patton–break glass in case of an emergency.”

      We, the U.S. must have those willing to ignore popular opinion and protect the country ‘s interests.

  3. Excellant post. Very moving. Your words reawaken the warriors and bring to life the realities of a time that affected us all.
    Virginia Lee

  4. I only knew the Colonel in passing. When I received my orders for the Thai jump wings, I saw his name on the list, right above mine ..Capt Charles Beckwith. When I got a back channeled phone call asking if I was interested in a ComSec slot at the new ‘Blue Light Committee” the words were “Charlie Beckwith running this place, you’d really like it” His aura was over JFK Center and Bragg for many a year. Always a warrior, always one to take it to the enemy. You know Charleston Heston did a pretty good imitation of Moses, but Chargin’ Charlie did a damn site better impersonation of George Patton…..a true model for troop inspiration…..

  5. Wow, very powerful, Thomas. Thank you for sharing this, and best of luck with your chap book!

    • Thank you, Aaron. I’m going to post one of my personal favorites from the chapbook, later.

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