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Pairs of teenage boys bounced

150 pound packs, slung

between them on a pole, its

length perfect for the rhythm

that shifts the weight up

and down to average 70 pounds

or nothing for each black-clad

boy to bear.

 

They walked the ancient

"Old Man’s Trail," winding

with the terrain, fixed rest stops

for rice and tea. They had

not been warned of the dangers

of bombs from planes unseen,

but they would fear their sergeant

more than any tales of danger.

 

Six month’s of training and culling

produced teams of hard-muscled

and mentally prepared load bearers,

intent on never shaming themselves

or their comrades without weapons.

 

Arms and other supplies they

hauled for uncounted miles,

watching the ground and their

used tires sandals, threading

along the trail at the foot

of kharsts and across slat and rope

bridges, spans that were

repaired almost daily.

 

 

Those that survived, returned,

passing new units

that continued the march

like caterpillars along

the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

 

Now the survivors are old

men with white beards

and memories, wearing

the same type of black

pajamas and rubber flip-flops

on their feet. Little has changed

except there are no more bombs.

 

Those of us who flew the planes

and rained bombs on the flow

miles below, now have time

to wonder what it was all for,

and tote up our guesses

of the number of casualties,

with private body counts.

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I like how the plot unravelled, keeping my interest through to the end. I also like the tone of the Narrator, spoken matter-of-factly, of something really poignant as the violence of warfare. I also liked the internal rhyming scheme and alliterations.

"Words are not things, and yet they are not non-things either." - Ann Lauterbach

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Hi fdelano,

 

The reference to Ho Chi Minh Trail suggests the Vietnam War:

 

Those that survived, returned,

passing new units

that continued the march

like caterpillars along

the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

 

A terrible rite of passage, both in terms of the war and the men's own emotional and psychological scars:

... mentally prepared load bearers,

intent on never shaming themselves

or their comrades without weapons.

 

 

Yes, what a horrendous 'load' they carry beyond the conflict and into their old age.

 

 

 

 

Thank you.

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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David W. Parsley

Agreed with all above, fdelano. Expressed with trademark understatement and subtlety. "Toting" the "private estimates" bespeaks on-going "portage" of a different kind for the narrator.

 

Nicely done.

 

- Dave

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My heartfelt thanks to all who found something in this piece. The Ho Chi Minh trail was, of course, bombers main target, trying to cut off the supplies to the south. Dave, your catch on the use of "toting" was true insight.

fdh

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  • 1 month later...
abstrect-christ

everything's been said -- nicely expressed Delano. :-8)

Pinhead

"Unbearable, isn't it? The suffering of strangers, the agony of friends.

There is a secret song at the center of the world, Joey, and its sound is like razors through flesh."

Joey

"I don't believe you."

Pinhead

"Oh come, you can hear its faint echo right now. I'm here to turn up the volume.

To press the stinking face of humanity into the dark blood of its own secret heart."

"There's a starving beast inside my chest
playing with me until he's bored
Then, slowly burying his tusks in my flesh
crawling his way out he rips open old wounds

When I reach for the knife placed on the bedside table
its blade reflects my determined face
to plant it in my chest
and carve a hole so deep it snaps my veins

Hollow me out, I want to feel empty"
-- "Being Able To Feel Nothing" by Oathbreaker

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBPy3xNwwL8

"Sky turns to a deeper grey

the sun fades by the moon

hell's come from the distant hills

tortures dreams of the doomed

and they pray, yet they prey

and they pray, still they prey"
-- "Still They Prey" by Cough

https://soundcloud.com/relapserecords/sets/cough-still-they-pray

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