Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Goodnight Saigon"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

One year ago today my good friend, Daniel Murphy, and I flew into Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, which is still more commonly known by its historic name of Saigon.  It was Christmas Eve, and we had no idea what to expect in the way of holiday trappings in what was at least nominally a socialist  country.  What we found as we strolled the streets of Saigon that first night was a bustling city awash in commerce and millions of honking motor scooters.  Santa Claus was out on the streets weaving his way among the holiday shoppers as they bustled to-and-fro among the high-end department stores.  There was nothing apparent on Saigon's busy streets to harken back to the ravages of war from forty years before.

The heady display of capitalism made it hard to comprehend that we had actually lost the war.

To commemorate that trip, I have selected Billy Joel's Vietnam War anthem, Goodnight Saigon, as this week's poetry selection.  It is a lyrical roar of Marine camaraderie.

Goodnight Saigon
by Billy Joel

We met as soul mates
On Parris Island
We left as inmates
From an asylum
And we were sharp
As sharp as knives
And we were so gung ho
To lay down our lives

We came in spastic
Like tameless horses
We left in plastic
As numbered corpses
And we learned fast
To travel light
Our arms were heavy
But our bellies were tight

We had no home front
We had no soft soap
They sent us Playboy
They gave us Bob Hope
We dug in deep
And shot on sight
And prayed to Jesus Christ
With all of our might

We had no cameras
To shoot the landscape
We passed the hash pipe
And played our Doors tapes
And it was dark
So dark at night
And we held on to each other
Like brother to brother
We promised our mothers we'd write
And we would all go down together
We said we'd all go down together
Yes we would all go down together

Remember Charlie
Remember Baker
They left their childhood
On every acre
And who was wrong?
And who was right?
It didn't matter in the thick of the fight

We held the day
In the palm
Of our hand
They ruled the night
And the night
Seemed to last as long as six weeks
On Parris Island

We held the coastline
They held the highlands
And they were sharp
As sharp as knives
They heard the hum of our motors
They counted the rotors
And waited for us to arrive
And we would all go down together
We said we'd all go down together
Yes we would all go down together

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