Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Very Human Interaction

The following poem presents an interaction between an older experienced war veteran and a young soldier. The incident in this poem occurred while both soldiers were serving in Vietnam. However, the interaction depicted here has a universal aspect: it could have happened, with minor variations, during any war throughout history.

Platoon Sgt. Francisco Royas

In Korea at
Seventeen he’d been
A squad leader—a killer:
Royas was tough.
In this next war he’d
Been tough on us too.
Abundant respect’s what
Us youngsters gave ‘im.

I remember this incident
During a combat operation:
We’d set up, and
Across the perimeter, lookin’
Like an Asian pit bull,
He comes toward me.
With some dread, I’m thinkin’,
“What’s he want?
Wa’d I do wrong?”
Reachin’ me, he’s got
This excited glow and says,
“Tree! I got this new Ham
And Lima Beans* recipe:
You pour out some of the
Juice, put in some crumble
Crackers and a hot pepper,
Add a can a cheese, and heat it up.”
Radiant, almost like a child,
He says, “It’s great!”
And I’m thinkin’,
“He likes me?”

*A C-Ration unit

Robert Jost
Credit: First published in Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, edited by Maxine Hong Kingston, Koa Books, Kihei, Hawai'i

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