ST (Aug.11,1973 / Manitoulin Island, Ontario)

Vietnam; August 1970 A.D

It is August 1970; The Tet Offensive still lingers in the mind of America
I am 19 years old this month, the Washington war gods beckon me
A boy from North Dakota, who dabbles in Lakota magick
I stand in The Black Hills at eventide, ere the day of my departure
My tour of duty shall begin on the morrow
I bid vale to my Muse; Ptsan Wi, we smoke a chunupa pipe together

“Vietnamization”, a term Nixon utters with such certainty
Why, at only 19, can I see this conflict of Indo-china as folly?
Yet, our people and government endorse it
I have marched in many protests………and still they draft me
My basic combat training has been completed

By e’en of the next day, I am in Saigon
A sergeant greets us with a string of expletive utterances and insults
He herds us young men into a Huey helicopter, then signaling the pilot to lift off
As we fly o’er the jungle canopy, I see flashes of tracer rounds and hear dying screams
Will this be the upshot of my life now?

Many days come and go; sultry weather and murder are my daily realities
Each day feeling like a decade of perdition…Is my soul dying?
I watch as carpet bombs set entire villages into conflagration,
Babies scream, mothers weep……….charcoaled corpses strewn about
Rattle of machine gun fire singing a disquiet litany to death deities of war
Rice fields replete with dismembered cadavers
Which only days ago drew breath
Agent Orange leaves the jungles to wilt
Death and destruction abounds……… love dead to this world?
Does America really know about this misanthropic rancour? …….Wake up humanity!
Solicitous laments cry in my brain…such cacophony of dismal horror!

I will not remain on this 6 month tour of duty………I refuse!

Drugs are offered to me from brothers-in-arms, to ease the pain…………..I decline
One day a young woman greets me, She is about my age
She wears an orange robe, Her English is surprisingly well spoken
She leads me to a temple of Buddha, on the Mekong River
I am in the midst of a mission, my Company locked in a battle with The Viet Cong
Some other grunts look for me, they know I am missing in action
Mortars set off, flames rise with billowing smoke above the hilltops
I can hear the sound of M-60 fire from a door gunner flying over head
I have been on enough sorties, I have had enough of death
I have helped zip enough body bags
I have killed enough brothers and fathers and sons….no more!
The Buddhist Girl tells me of Her traditions, She tells me about love
I call Her, Buddha Girl, for She will not utter Her name
It matters little, Her family is dead, and Her name is to hard for Her to hear
I understand this somehow

She tells me about Higher-Self………..ancient voices sing to me
I hear drums beating in my head, drums of Lakota promise
Drums which find me on the other side of the Pacific Ocean
Yet, I am not State side, …………Ptesan Wi whispers to me
“Go with the Maiden………….go with The Maiden”
I throw down my M-16 and claymores
I peel off my combat gear
I hurl my clips and rounds into a nearby puddle
I hang my dog tags from a branch, with a note tied to them that says;
………………………………................I CHOOSE PEACE!

I untie my combat boots
As I take them off, it burns, I have jungle rot
Buddha Girl tends quickly to my wounds
I have a bayonet stuck in my upper leg and a severe burn on my back
A Viet Cong reserve-man had lit me aflame with a flame thrower earlier that day
He would be the last man I would kill
On his corpse I found a picture of his wife and little girl
One day I will find them an’ ask forgiveness
How would I tell that little girl that I had killed Her daddy?
How would I tell that beautiful lady from the rice fields,
That I had killed Her husband?
Most Viet Cong men were forced into service, as I was
Coerced either at N.V.A muzzle point or by Ho Chi Minh’s propaganda
He was as much a victim as I
My bodily wounds would heal, but my heart wast bedraggled fore’er

I ask Buddha Girl to flee with me
She guides me behind The Temple, where a small boat is awaiting us
She gives me an orange robe, it was Her brother’s robe once
He was killed in an air bomb raid along with the rest of Her family
After The Tet Offensive, American bombers and artillery
Took their revenge on farming villages
She was the only survivor
There was nothing left here to bind Her

We row down The Mekong River
Officially, the war was not in Cambodia, but combatants knew otherwise
Even so, the sounds of battle were growing ever more distant
I tried leaving this damnation once before, by eating C4
My commanders were wise to this trick though
I was a deserter now, and peace was already finding my heart again
Buddha Girl touches my hand as I break down in tears
When the villainies of my memories subside
She tells me of Angkor Wat

It was a place I read of, and felt a past attachment to somehow
We cross the border into Cambodia
Within a couple of nights we would be in Phnum Penh, Cambodia’s capital city
We only travel down the river at night, to avoid being captured
We were both war criminals now, and proud for it
Oft times I was so bemused by Buddha Girl’s beauty
That the war seemed non-extant

Her kindness saved me from my own bedlam
She shows me to the path of Green and White Tara
By adhering to these meditations, I find these 2 Buddhist Muses
With their many eyes and ears, they see and hear my supplications
Peace fills my heart, The Creator Mother be nigh me
I find my metaphysical-self
Away from war; away from the peal of machine gun fire
A new song I hear, Buddha Girl has helped me rekindle my heart chakra’s fire

I knew that they would come for me though, I was a deserter after all
I could not bring myself to tell my Buddha Girl
But I think She knew anyway, we did not speak of it
My family were zealous Republicans, and supported this war
They were fools
They spent a lifetime in Lakota country, yet learned nothing of their ways
The Lakota were my friends, and my family hated me for it
My family bought into secular fear tactics and could not see
They could only follow the ecclesiastical uni-god and his minions
I would not return to them
I would not return to their shrines of star-spangled zeal

After reaching Phnum Penh, we tarried in a morass just outside the city
Alms of monks who had taken pity on us, sustained us the rest of our journey
On foot we found our way to the priesthood at Angkor Wat
A statue of Vishnu greeted us, as though we stepped into an alternate reality
Was it really 1970 A.D. or were we in epochs of Kali Yuga?
Both realities existed I supposed

Carved images of the Goddess were everywhere
Were they Kali in triumvirate?
As I bowed before Her images, Buddha Girl pointed eastward
A jeep filled with armed U.S soldiers was humming toward us
They were men from my squad, dressed in civilian garbs……….., why?
They were carrying AK-47 riffles stolen from VC corpses………….why?

I heard a voice yell; “get on your knees coward, this is an execution rite”
I said nothing, and fell to my knees with my back turned to them in defiance
I looked up at the Kali images and She smiled
Green Tara and White Tara levitated above me saying; “Do not fear them”
My Buddha Girl kneeled beside me and held my hand
One of the soldiers said; “We are going to kill you with a VC weapon”
I knew what he meant, it would appear as though I were killed in battle
It would be easier to explain my death to my family
They would think me a ‘hero’ rather than a deserter
I cared little for what they thought…….they could not see
I felt the muzzle of the AK press against the base of my skull
I welcomed the release from my guilt
I looked down into my right hand and looked at the picture
The picture of the VC soldier’s wife and daughter
I handed it to Buddha Girl and said “Please tell them”
She nodded and smiled, a tear trickled down Her cheek
She squeezed my hand
I felt the round penetrate my skull
I heard Buddha Girl scream
She wept o’er my dead body, which the soldiers took from Her
They burned my robe and placed me in a body bag with my combat cloths replaced
The dog tags were placed back around my neck
The note that said I CHOOSE PEACE was left on the ground
Buddha Girl picked it up
She looked at me as Kali led me away to the portal of the otherworld
Buddha Girl smiled, kissed Her hand and waved good-bye to me

Buddha Girl found the VC soldier’s wife and daughter
She gave them the photo and said nothing
But rather, handed them the note which was once attached to my dog tags
Which read………………..I CHOOSE PEACE
They forgave me forthwith

It would be another 3 years till I would draw breath once more………………………………......................................................................................................
Perhaps one day I will find my friend Buddha Girl again

Steve Trimmer

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