Ask him the names of GI’s he knew
Ask him to put a face to a name
Ask about barbed wire
Black chevrons sewn on green
Gold chevrons pinned on collars
Seiko watches, mosquito nets
Monsoon rains, the Stars and Stripes
Lists of dead and missing
Did you fire your 45, your M 16?
Did you wound anyone,
kill any Viet Cong?
Ask about bug repellent, red
and blue borders of white envelopes
Balconies and jeeps, the beaded curtains
his hand parted going in and out of a shadowed room.
Did you fall in love? Did you
like Da Nang, between midnight and dawn
sitting in a bunker with your feet on a ledge
listening to Marvin Gaye?
Did you think, what’s going on
in Ohio and Wisconsin?
Draft card burnings, tear gas protests
Did you think they hated what you
were doing, making war not love?
Did you watch a priest burn?
Did you pray in a temple?
Ask him his name
And the number on his dog tags
Peter Mladinic lives in Hobbs, New Mexico. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas in 1985. His poems have been published in numerous literary magazines such as American Literary Review, Puerto del Sol, MSS, Poetry Northwest, Poetry East, Riverrun, The Evening Street Review and Common Ground. He is the author of a chapbook, At the Blue Earth Gallery, and two full-length books of poetry, Lost in Lea: Southeast New Mexico Poems and Dressed for Winter. He teaches English at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs.
“His Viet Nam Tour” is in Mladinic’s second book of poems, Dressed for Winter, while “Da Nang 1967” is more recent. Mladinic writes, “I was stationed in Da Nang in Vietnam from August 1967 through August 1968. Both poems come from that experience. I worked as a security guard for the U.S. so I was either stationary for long periods, or mobile in jeep patrol, and had much time to observe people, places, and things in Da Nang.”