A Brother's Poem
My brother Richard was a feisty boy of freckles, reddish hair,
and a loyal disposition to his friends.
Some years later, as a Medic in a war zone, taking care
of another man was how his life would end.

He had wandered through his early years a stranger to this place,
somehow straying, like the lost lamb in a Psalm.
But time brings many things, and time itself cannot erase
the life he lost, the soul he found, in Vietnam.

He dropped out of school for lack of interest, drifted for awhile,
then enlisted, to grow up (or so he thought).
But photographs of him in uniform without the slightest smile
betrayed a feeling, that he knew his life was caught.

The jungle was a hell on earth. Beneath the beating Sun
swarmed mosquitoes, flies, machine guns and napalm.
But here he found the will to heal his friends before his life was done,
as ironic as that was in Vietnam.

A letter from a soldier who had seen it happen said
he saved another, while his own wound he forgot.
Rolling over toward an officer to treat his bleeding head,
he was seen again, and three times more was shot.

My dear brother, barely twenty on that 24th of May,
still a baby, died while calling out for Mom.
And the man the Army said they'd make of him was blown away
long before he could get out of Vietnam.

So I ask you, who's the enemy? A nation in unrest
many thousand miles away from our own shores?
Or a government that uses boys as pawns at its behest
to score some points through its involvement in a war?

At midnight, several times a week, the silence would give way
to the heaving sobs and wailing of my Mom.
For the son she prayed to God to please return alive someday
was the same boy that she lost in Vietnam.

The cloud hung heavy, gray and dark for many years to come
above my family's home and in their hearts.
Though we tried to keep the family close, we could not be as one...
Brother Richard was not there to take his part.

Then one day, a letter written by a girl, fifteen, arrived.
It inquired most hesitantly of my Mom:
"I have a question now to ask to one by whom he was survived:
What was it like to have a son in Vietnam?"

Five years after Richard's death she had been born, a baby girl
who pondered deep inside her these things as she grew.
When she read of Richard's life and death she reached out
from her world and asked for us to share with her all that we knew.

Generations now have passed since Brother Richard lost his life.
Mother's agony has given way to calm.
And we have seen through what has now been gained from what was lost in strife
that the spirit of him lives past Vietnam.

©1988, Ray Carlson

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