“God feels pinned down and torn to pieces”

Another Staged Thanksgiving

Helicoptered away
from another staged
Thanksgiving, God
feels pinned down
and torn to pieces.
Like the last virgin
in Laos, or a platoon
letting go together.


Thrown Inside the Bird

More than an enemy, it
was that, too. Thick. Steep.
Long. A netherworld of endless
suffering. But Marines never
leave their wounded. Lying.

“He still came for me / Dead but still alive”

An arm lifted. One burst through
the chest.

He still came for me.

A hole through the chest large
enough to stick a fist through.

He still came for me.

Dead but still alive.
Thrown into the bird.

“I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisors, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the communists.” – PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY in a televised interview with Walter Cronkite on September 2, 1963

“Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America—not on the battlefields of Vietnam.” – MARSHALL MCLUHAN, Montreal Gazette, May 16, 1975

“Vietnam was the first war ever fought without any censorship. Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.” – WILLIAM WESTMORELAND, Time Magazine, April 5, 1982

“World War II brought the Greatest Generation together. Vietnam tore the Baby Boomers apart.” – JIM WEBB

“We seem bent upon saving the Vietnamese from Ho Chi Minh, even if we have to kill them and demolish their country to do it. I do not intend to remain silent in the face of what I regard as a policy of madness which, sooner or later, will envelop my son and American youth by the millions for years to come.” – SENATOR GEORGE MCGOVERN speaking on the Senate floor on April 25, 1967

“Vietnam was a country where America was trying to make people stop being communists by dropping things on them from airplanes.” – KURT VONNEGUT, Breakfast of Champions

“Numbers have dehumanized us. Over breakfast coffee we read of 40,000 American dead in Vietnam. Instead of vomiting, we reach for the toast. Our morning rush through crowded streets is not to cry murder but to hit that trough before somebody else gobbles our share.” – DALTON TRUMBO, Introduction, Johnny Got His Gun

“There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor—both black and white—through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.” – MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., speech at Riverside Church in New York City, “A Time to Break Silence,” April 4, 1967

“It has been said that the United States was deceived into entering and expanding the Vietnam War by its own overoptimistic propaganda. The record suggests, however, that the policy-makers stayed in Vietnam not so much because of overly optimistic hopes of winning … as because of overly pessimistic assessments of the consequences of losing.” – JONATHAN SCHELLThe Real War: The Classic Reporting on the Vietnam War

“Our resistance will be long and painful, but whatever the sacrifices, however long the struggle, we shall fight to the end, until Vietnam is fully independent and reunified.” – HO CHO MINH, statement, December 19, 1946

“You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.” – HO CHI MINH in a warning to French colonialists in 1946

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all images: George Payne