A crow named Sam
and rev of playing cards, clothespin-clamped to bicycle spokes,
roused summer’s muggy air.
Charging an anthill mined, rock laden field,
we were ten to twelve-year-old combatants,
armed with a pair of scuffed baseballs
and a bat held together by a screw.
Bases were shirts off our sun painted skins.
A large stone served as a hard-earned home plate.
From muscat vine vantage, with familiar caws,
Sam announced, “Play ball!”
A faithful crowd of dogs and cats gathered to cheer us on.
That wondrous sound of bat meeting ball
found us moving, breathing and chattering as one..
“He was safe!”
..at least for a fleeting moment.
Following the contest, Sam flew just above us,
as we peddled to where our world extended-
a musk-inflected woods,
its tiger lilies moving hypnotically
beneath swaying branches.
This jungle held mystery, if not an actual man-eater,
far from where boys, with arms more developed,
negotiated a forest near Bong Son.
In their world,
Operation Concord raged through Suoi Ca Valley,
while 1st Cavalry’s wounded waited to be medevacked
back to An Khe.
Sam didn’t come to our windowsill to greet us.
We found him, stiff and still, beyond left field.
He hadn’t realized how valuable those grapes were,
fruit he’d grown too fond of, we’d later learn.
We held a funeral for Sam, down by Hinken’s Creek,
covering his shallow grave with home base.
Proclaiming victory was within reach,
TIME bannered its October 22nd, 1965 cover:
“The Turning Point In Viet Nam”
It would be ten more years before they were proven wrong
and we came home.
6 August 2008