Two Boys


They take the new machine gun out of its wrap

in pieces, the flat black barrel, the other

parts, delicate in their oil, plastic stock

like a toy until snapped onto the rest,

pressed against the shoulder of the corporal

with almost white blond hair. He looks around

for something to sight in on. With a grin

the other, darker one points to three

children dawdling to school along a paddy dike.

The first rounds are high and the gunner adjusts,

fires again, the children running now,

the rounds pluming in the wet paddies,

another click and all but one child has made

the safety of the treeline, the other splashing

into the new rice, and as the gunner sights in

on him, this eight year old, with wisdom perhaps

from the dead, yanks off his red shirt, becomes

the same color as the fields, the gunner lowering

the muzzle now, whispering a wistful, damn.

“Two Boys” is taken from Doug Anderson’s collection The Moon Reflected Fire. Published by Alice James Books, it won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for 1995. His poetry collection Blues for Unemployed Secret Police was awarded a grant from the Eric Matthieu King Fund of the Academy of American Poets. Last year his memoir, Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties and a Journey of Self-Discovery, was published by W.W. Norton. He teaches in the MFA Program at Pacific University of Oregon. The author’s photo was taken by Kinsey Cronin. The poem is reprinted with permission.

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nan shartel Sept. 29, 2010 @ 9:43 a.m.

i knew a man

that hid behind a uniform

tropical fare

shiny bullets were his snare

thru his sight targets that lingered

created in him itchy fingers

but he never kill a child i'm told

that hateful lie the public sold

that made him seem wanton beast

in the eyes of his war's defeat

for the first time a Marine

became unwelcome on the stateside scene

no flags were raise when he came home

no "helluva guy" and pats on the rump

those who fled to Canada were welcomed tho

congratulated for their wisdom and guile

as they paraded down the college aisles

rewarded for their peaceful smile

the warriors were left to roam

thru forested towns with darkened streets

to continue with their thoughts so bleak

shadow figures lost in warlike dream

at the ripe old age of just nineteen

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