A number of years ago, Continuous Performance, my book of poetry was published by Viet Nam Generation & Burning Cities Press. Through the press, I met a number of extraordinary soldier poets either in person, through letters or by email: W. D. Ehrhart, Gerald McCarthy, Dale Ritterbusch, Horace Coleman, Robert Borden, Jon Forrest Glade, Leroy Quintana, and David Connolly. My interest in the Vietnam War took on an even deeper personal meaning for me as time went on. Recently, I read Lewis Puller's remarkable biography and felt moved to write the following poem about him. I only hope it does him justice.

My publications include Continuous Performance, and 1492: What Is It Like To Be Discovered?, a collaboration with the artist Deborah Small. How The West Was One is forthcoming from Burning Cities Press.

For Lewis B. Puller, Jr.

Our stumps are all tangled up. -to a disabled North Vietnamese soldier

Chesty pulled more than his weight. The Marine Corps had to love him, couldn't pin enough medals on his chest for fighting 5 wars & for having a son. Dad taught me to stand for ladies & to shake a man's hand firmly. But life rushes right by a man: in a flash - Virginia childhood, to San Diego, to the triple-canopied jungle. Steps on a booby-trapped howitzer round, vaporized legs, pink mist surround him. Pray, Lieutenant, for God's sake, pray. Screams come from another country. Years later, Pain still walks point for him. Back in the World, a wife and kids, booze & pain-killers. Demands clemency for vets who deserted & loses a bid for Congress. A ' 91 photo shows clench-jawed Puller in front of the Wall: his wheelchair mirrored in the smooth granite surface. May 11, 1994: Lewis B. Puller Jr. died of a self-inflicted wound 19 years after the war's end, the average age of a grunt in Vietnam.

Copyright © 1996 Maggie Jaffe, all rights reserved

Contact Maggie at mjaffe@mail.sdsu.edu