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After the Fall of Saigon, By Walter McDonald

May 02, 1999

A mad man aging hard can't fight a war

forever. Think pity and the mind turns cold.

He still sees children and old men

ragged and golden, crawling the base dump

for scraps of food at sundown.

Years after Saigon, he's like a wall:

let no one know him, but his name.

Stone-faced, he tries to wish it all away,

a harmless Buddha with a green patina,

envies the lucky ones who didn't go.

Even good booze can't burn the fungus out,

down where it doesn't show,

the mind's own groin. He takes another shot

to hold him till it's dark, but after that,

they're back.

From "From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath," edited by Phillip Mahony (Scribner: 314 pp., $30)

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