Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | April 5, 2013

Post for Vietnam Vetrans’ Appreciation Days

I’ve posted this before. It’s from the chapbook, Finding The Way Home.  It isn’t far from current reality. The emotions are still strong enough to bring tears to my eyes.


I had that dream again last night,

or maybe today…

dressing for a parade,

but couldn’t find everything I needed;

medals, rank insignia, or unit crests;

always something different,

-always something missing.

                                                    Memories of war

                              -at first

                             ran just under my feet

                             like foreshortened shadows

                             following at midday;

                            when yesterday was no more than darkness

                             before this day’s light.

                             All senses remembered too much

                             and fear stabbed the gut

                             like frozen glass shards

                             or rage stung

                             like sweat in an open gash.

But here I stand anyway,

among all these people on main street,

-still wearing my beret,

– my faded tiger-stripe fatigues,

and waiting for the homecoming parade

under this new American sky.

I’m looking through the crowd

for others,

wondering if their uniforms fit

and if they have their ribbons.

                                 Months of war-stretched memory

                            numbed into distortion,

                            a long darkening trailed my boots

                            leaving only momentary shade,

                            and disappearing holes

                             in watery mud.

                            Footprints in tall grass lifted back,

                            stretched in long afternoon sun,

                            unbent again by evening

                                                                                  showing no sign of passage.


Trumpets sound,

so distant that fluttering banners

and muffled pop of yellow ribbons

hide their songs.

American flags reach from every lamppost

like open arms

stretching in spring winds

to touch and bless

victorious columns in desert tan.

                        Shadows hide in night

                 like war’s remembering,

                 waiting for morning’s eyes to cling

                 mocking every clumsy movement,

                  faster than running can escape,

                 burning through flesh like white phosphorus

                  cleaving to the bone

                 with a phantom ache of loss

                 like pain in an amputated limb.


I cannot march to this coming drum

Bouncing too loudly against my ears

and echoing back from The Wall;

my uniform is out of date,

-colors out of style,

-decorations incomplete.

                                         Unfaithful visions,

                                   -blacker in strange winter light

                                   mutable as shifting colors

                                   walking beside me on unquiet waters.


                                             That old land may have remembrance,

                                        but not of me.

                                        My passing shadow touched its earth

                                        more faintly than the wavering reflection

                                        I throw in a lake.


when the brassy Stars and Stripes Forever

leads young heroes past chanting crowds

my toes, in worn-out jungle boots

will twitch to feel the rhythmic stamp,

my shoulder will bear the rifle’s weight,

and my ears,

filled with the surf beat of welcoming cheers

will let me pretend,

for a time,

I did not return alone.


  1. Kudos my friend! It means a lot to those who have served.

  2. Nicely done Thomas. Very heartfelt. I can feel your devotion to your fellow soldiers!

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