It was only after my brother-in-law's visit,
two years past his time in that slaughterhouse
we called Vietnam, that I saw how the war
had affected my first husband,
safely riding out his own two year bloodbath
in a supply ship off the corpse
free green waters of this once beautiful,
but troubled, land we were sent to burn, tame,
napalm and slaughter.
God Bless America, land of the free!
Teach the young our enemies are subhuman
then send them frollicking on their way.
My brother-in-law spoke of sheared-off ears strung on belts,
Cong flung like basketballs or mortars
from our copters,
the heads on posts,
Oh dear God, I had to leave the room.
From the kitchen, I heard them both laugh
about one gook who begged for his life,
his screams like those of a dying hyena.
These stories brought more hysteria
or sock it to me Hawn on Laugh In.
Civilian or Cong? If dead, he was Cong.
That was the rule.
Women clutching their babies, stabbed
raped, and shot counted as ten, no make it a hundred...
ten counts for each of the ten men who raped her.
These counts, 'proof' of our
successes in taming these noble savages.
Count 'em double.
Count 'em triple.
That was the unofficial official word given these teens,
some still not needing a shave every day,
some with their mother's mailed cookies still
stowed in their rucksack.
My husband's spirit had fled along with his brother's.
This explained his long silences, the indifference
that had crept like a dark shadow over
our young marriage.
His friend, best man at our Pearl Harbor wedding,
raped me one night.
Out of the navy by then, too.
Me sleeping on their sofa
enroute to a meeting.
Told his wife, my close friend,
it was consensual.
Maybe he was dreaming I was a bar girl
waiting for him in Saigon again,
legs spread wide for a dolla'.
This was the war we were to learn from.
the war more men died by their own hand
from, than were killed by the Cong in those
searing, orange-coated, gateways to hell.
The bones of the dead rise in my dreams,
dress in their cast away coats of skin.
They are us, they say, and we, them.
They pull on their faces and it's my face I see.
May those without sin cast the first stone,
Glass houses weren't safe havens, anyway.
No more than battlefields, home fronts,
or shivering behind the backs of wannabe
saints claiming they would've never done the same thing.
I'm still waiting for the real saints to rise up.
Turn on the house lights.
Toss away the crosses.
Sing hymns of praise.
Feather the ground with rose petals.
Perhaps glass houses will yet
be habitable again in our lifetime
and condoms, not war,
the preferred way to manage
our burgeoning population overload.