Hope Smith

Suppose I’ve been in the Army
all my life and suppose
I’ve just gotten orders for Vietnam,
the place that no one’s talking about
just yet, the place officers go to train
the side we’re on, and I’m afraid
of what I’ll be asked to say and do, though
I’ve been training all my life to do this,
even though they think I am the man they want.
Say all this is what I’m thinking
when I’m in a helicopter, ammo strapped
to my chest, rifle in my hands, sweat trickling down
the small of my back, and suppose
later that month my troop
is ambushed, all of us go down
in the middle of the jungle, and I am 26
and never meet my wife and never see
Chicago and never have a daughter, here in this room
imagining that she is her father
as he went off to war for the first time
the age that she is now.

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