The Poems of Robert H.Dirr, Jr.


A poem by Robert H. Dirr Jr.

Hollow faces and hoarse cries
Surround the bed and ask
"Why is it you are there and
We are here?" and I have no
Answer to give them. Sometimes
I wish I were with my old friends.

Even so, I have fashioned a private
Avenue where we can get together
And talk of good times. For when I am
At the "Wall" there is no guilt,
And from time to time, I AM
With my old friends.


A poem by Robert H. Dirr Jr.

"Absolutely the asshole of the civilized world as we know it,"
Fred used to say as we sploshed along the stench of paddies,
Took walks down jungle paths and cut through elephant grass
With leaves so sharp they could cut flesh like a straight razor
On a chin when you don't have the luxury of shaving cream.

"I wanted to stay in college but my parents couldn't afford it,
And Dad said that he did his time and Grandpa did his time so
Why should it be any different for me, and I laughed in his face.
Then I asked him what the hell was the purpose of me going to
Vietnam and he reminded me of the Domino Theory and wept.

Yesterday, Fred escaped the fat leeches that were doing laps
Around the dung-filled water of a rice paddy near Khe Sanh
Because he was afraid of being their next four-course meal.
He was walking along on a nice dry dike when he got blown up
And I wondered if he had finally perceived his own purpose.

"The Man-Boys of Bravo 1/3"

A poem by Robert H. Dirr Jr.

I see the faces of these boys who would be men:
Mouths with downward slants, topped with mustaches,
Expressionless, with a hint of wishing they were somewhere else.
Jaws clamped shut with razor stubble dancing
To the rhythm of working muscles from temple to chin.
Noses turned up or down, beaked or squat, broad or narrow,
With pellets of sweat dribbling at frequent intervals.
Heads were made universal in appearance by camouflauged
Steel helmets that slid from side to side because they were too big.

But what set these boys apart from others were their eyes:
Eyes set within darkened sockets, like marbles
In shot glasses filled with bourbon, heavily shadowed and ringed.
Weary and frowning, bloodshot from not enough sleep,
Glazed and dreamy, comatose but awake.
Pupils dwarfed by overexposure to polished sunlight,
Fixed at nothingness, a thousand-yard-stare.
Thirty years ago, and the stare is still there. 

"Vernal Equinox"

A poem by Robert H. Dirr Jr.

Sprawled on a park bench, I enjoy the feeling
Of sun flakes settling upon my skin.
I am listening to Adagio for Strings,
A fitting piece for the death of winter
And the soundtrack to a movie about war.
Today is the 29th anniversary of my
Departure from Vietnam.

(I returned on a stretcher,
flying in the guts of a converted
cargo plane that smelled
of embalming fluid.)

Sprawled on a park bench I remember,
The faces of thirty-seven friends who
Died like the winter and return every year.
We never had the chance to say goodbye.
I think I'll take a trip to Washington DC,
And touch their names etched on the Wall.
This spring, I shall lay them to rest.

(Their faces haunt
dream-filled nights,
and are so real,
I sometimes don't
want to wake up.)


A poem by Robert H. Dirr Jr.

Fat black leeches conceal their heads in unaware flesh,
Sucking and swelling to the size of Cuban cigars.
The only way to remove them is to hold a burning cigarette
Against the place you think their necks should be
And take them off gently so the head won't be separated
And squeeze them in anger until they explode.

They attach themselves to the most curious places,
And you don't feel them until they are seen.
Leeches prefer the inner thighs and ass cheeks,
But I've seen them on testicles and in arm pits.
Once, I removed one from somebody's left nostril,
And another that was inside his right ear.

"Night Ambush"

A poem by Robert H. Dirr Jr.

It is so quiet you can hear a rat pissing at fifty yards,
But an intrusive heartbeat is trapped between your ears,
Like thunder in a bucket. Anxious hours pass as you
Sit motionless, eyes dialated, staring into blackness,
With index finger weightlessly resting on an M-16 trigger.

Trees ripen to the shape of humans and boulders
Emerge as crouched figures: apparitions of
Excessively keen senses. You anticipate the arrival
Of the Viet Cong into the L-shaped maneuver,
Ordered by unknowing officers in the rear
Who are detached from what you do.

Someone trips a claymore and a barrage of
Firepower ingests the silence. Profanity and bullets
Mix with shouts of orders. Three minutes mutate
Into an hour, and you blindly fire at the dark jungle,
Hoping to hit something, rather than something hit you.
A final shot echoes through the night and it is over.

You must recon the area and give the good officers
Their body count, so you search for weapons and
Blood trails leading into the jungle, but tonight,
The officers will be disappointed. All that is found
Is a water buffalo with three legs and twenty-seven holes. 

Copyright © 1997 Robert H. Dirr Jr. All Rights Reserved

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Added 8/17/97