Poems by Steve O'Brien

WE HAVE Have you sat on a hill watching the napalm explode, or smelled the dead bodies at the side of the road. Have you looked down your sights at a child of six, or an old MaMa San with her bundle of sticks. Have you felt your heart stop as you stepped on a mine, or helped a young Marine who will always be blind. Have you walked all day long in the rice paddy mud, or stood in the rain to wash off the blood. Have you had to listen as people called you names, or looked at the children all broken and maimed. We Have.
HIS FACE Have you looked into a dead man's face, feelings and emotions are gone with nary a trace. The ground is usually covered with his blood, mixing together with the Vietnam mud. Once you have looked deep into that face, God, was he a member of the same human race. If I die tomorrow, and it really is my time, will someone write a poem after looking into mine.
WAR Some say war is exciting, some say it's really even fun; Walking through the jungle, just you and your gun. Sometimes it is exciting, and sometimes you do have fun; But remember you're not the only one, out there with a gun.
FIRST KILL I killed today, a man much smaller then me. I would have never believed how scared I could be. It was as if in slow motion the trigger pull, the bucking gun. I saw in his eyes, all he wanted was to run. The bullets entered, his life blood ran out. One shot or ten I really didn't count. In a way I'm so sorry, but in another I'm not. If it were the other way round, would his stomach be in a knot.
WATCHING Watching the people from here on the hill, what must they think as they stand there so still? A mother searches for her only son, a brother, a father, or just anyone. A soldier is crying as some people stare, others know they should but they really don't dare. The Wall is emotion, respect, and some fear, people looking and searching for someone they hold dear. I wish that I wouldn't but I can't help but cry, for all of my friends who didn't have to die.
MEMORIES I stand here listening to your sorrowful call, 58,000 names on a shiny black wall. I didn't want to come, I held back with all of my might, But I felt like a moth drawn to the light. Don, Art, Billy and Bob what must you think as I sit here and sob. It's hard to believe 27 years have passed, But the memory of your deaths still hold me fast.
NOTHING IS CLEAR Woke this morning as if from a dream. Sounds of the jungle, sounds of a stream. Men milling around gathering their gear. Always on alert, hearts filled with fear. Will someone die today? Just who will it be? Keep our fingers crossed, I guess we'll just wait and see. Vietnam is days filled with boredom, and nights filled with fear. In this crazy war, nothing is clear.
I DON'T DARE I think I see movement, what can it be? God, I wish it were daylight, so at least I could see. Should I fire or wake someone up? I think it's a man or maybe it's just a stump. This is how it was every night I was there. I'd love to relax, but even now I don't dare.
IT'S OK We must kill them, before they kill us. But does it all matter, Why all the fuss? I could die tomorrow, or I could die today. But after living through this hell, dying is O.K.

All Poems Copyright © 1996 by Steve O'Brien, All Rights Reserved

My name is Steve O'Brien. I'm married and have 3 children. I've got a good job. I was a Corpsman in CAP 2-4-5, III Marine Amphibious Force south of Da Nang near Hoi An in 1970. I was wounded September 6 and again on November 20 and sent back to the world. As a Corpsman it was my job to decide who died and who lived. For the past 25 years I've continually asked myself, "Could I have done more?" These poems are a result of visiting the Moving Wall when it came to my home town. They were spontaneous and hold many of my feelings and experiences. Contact Steve at: docob1@hotmail.com