Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Dong Ha Haiku

Dong Ha Haiku

As part of its War Crimes project haikumania presents Dong Ha Haiku by Ty Hadman. This piece was first published in 1982 by Smythe-Waithe Press in Kentfield, CA  and remains a powerful piece of work - Paul Conneally



(Dong Ha was one of the poorest villages in South Vietnam in the province of Quang Tri, just a few miles south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) near the Cua Viet River where I was stationed in the Marines with a rifle company from 2/29/68–4/3/69.)


this one last kiss
      before I leave for the war
            this winter

(Travis Air Force Base, CA
 February 23, 1968)


dusk’s darkness deepens
   along the lines the whispering
       of tonight’s password


I’ve got the jitters . . ....
no sign of movement
except these fireflies


no enemy seen
but I get a good look
at myself


the first letter
from his girlfriend arrives
she says she’s pregnant


in the rear truck
of a long convoy
the dusty road


sugarcane fields
the beautiful countryside
swarming with snipers


concertina wire
a water buffalo
wiggles through


Concertina wire is a type of coiled barbed wire used to make it more difficult for the enemy to sneak across the lines.


sweeping the road
for antipersonnel mines
the sun gets hotter


rust colored water
not even enough
to bathe with


The scarcity of water was a permanent situation. Only commissioned officers were permitted to use water to bathe. The rest of us either had to go months on end without bathing or take our chances bathing in the shallow river where enemy snipers were often waiting. I came down with amoebic dysentery twice and was hospitalized on both occasions due to having to drink the filthy water. Medicinal plants have helped me a lot over the years, but I still suffer from colitis to this day.

heavy casualties;
I don’t give a damn about
this moon tonight


survivors in small boats
looking for a new place to live
the war drags on and on


minute by minute
hour after hour
the days go by


filling sand bags in the hot sun
soul brothers singing
soul music

Filling sand bags under a hot sun in high humidity was a frequent activity. They were used mainly to build new bunkers or fortify old ones. They were also used to hold down the tin roofs of Quonset huts during the monsoons.


because of this war
I become close friends
with an American Indian




it’s quite impossible
to kill all of them —
mosquitoes attack!


Many of the mosquitoes carried malaria and other nasty tropical diseases.


crickets stop chirping
I awake
with a start!


that fat rat just stares

inside the bunker
in the candlelight

my bayonet gleams


War is HELL!
Along the DMZ
not one flower

(Khe Sahn)

The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) separated North Vietnam from South Vietnam. The area was an eerie sight like the cratered surface of the moon. All vegetation had been destroyed by the bombing and use of chemical defoliants.


peace symbol
and the word LOVE
on his helmet


village off limits
she’s glad
I came


both armies


Tet is the month of the Vietnamese New Year and Buddhist religious celebrations and observances according to the old agrarian lunar calendar. A time of strength and strong beliefs. The Viet Cong launched their bloodiest attacks and offensives during this time. I had the misfortune of having to experience two Tets. It also marks the short but intense rainy season and monsoons.

rain . . .
& mud


rain soaked and cold
without moving an inch
I let the warm urine flow


sitting in a hole
wondering what the hell
am I doing here?


waiting in ambush . . .
our hands touch as he hands me
an extra grenade


returning to camp
with one less buddy
darkness deepens


suffering from battle fatigue,
the war came to an end
in a dream


dead bodies arrive
the soldier on duty
continues eating


Little kids yelling,
"You number One! Want boom-boom?
Want Coca-Cola?"


Boom-boom was the word they used for prostitute. They also offered bags of opium and marijuana. Absolutely nothing else except for bottles of Coke. It seems these are the three things you can find just about anywhere you go in the world even in places of extreme poverty where food and water are not available.

my 21st birthday
oh how I’ve aged
this past year

(February 9, 1969)


only ONE man


waiting for a flight out
I watch several new men arrive
and a tear appears


Written on my last day in Vietnam while waiting on the airstrip.


the crying boy
just can’t understand why
I broke his toy machine gun


I’m now back in the United States again.


Memorial Day service —
a young man prays hard


shaking his cup
of coins with vehemence
the crippled vet


All work is copyrighted by Ty Hadman and should not be reproduced without permission.

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