from caterwauls


Vietnam War Poetry



written by character Nathan in - A Place in the Sky

third novel in the trilogy, Trephining by RC Westerholm



Where Now is Home?

Where was Langvei? Was that the last hill?

Are we still in the valley of the shadow of death?

Where is Khesanh? Can we find it still?

Can we walk any longer? Is this our last breath?

Where now is home? To the north to the south?

The hooch in the jungle, the picket fence lane?

What words do I hear coming out of my mouth?

Are the sobs and the moans the sound of profane?

Tread on the button bombs or upon the death adder.

Take your cubes and your pills, what are they for?

In the combat of grunts, what does it matter

if anyone survives this paraplegic war?

Where does it end, this loathing of man?

How can we endure this continual pain?

Where can we say this turning began?

Pray to my God I’ll not pass here again.

Where now is home? Where now is home?

© RC Westerholm



"I have Nhan, benevolence, one of the six virtues. And I live by the six obligations of conduct.
I am a man of Muc, of kindness, Nhiem, tolerance, and Tuat, charity.
It is civilization that is disturbed."

- Nathan, Zac's brother,  in my novel  - A Place in the Sky







Can I burrow into this earth?

Push my face into a fetid crack, hold my breath as long as I can,

redness seeps into my mind with the liquid warming my cheek

Crimson blood - I know its colour because the flashing explosions force the blazing light into my eyes

along with the stinging salt-sweat even though they are shut so tight it hurts.

Red light oozes through my eyelids

scarlet streaks hurtle above me through the blackness in chains of sparking death

Even the sun hides on the other side of earth

Charlie owns the night

I can see my hands, bright, reflecting the savage orange red white heat,

will they see me here in this hideous daylight darkness?

Can I burrow into this earth?

Taste the dirt.  Chew it like a mole - spew it out of my ass hole as I get deeper disappear

 into the black and leave the red terror behind me

My blood tastes warm - I could lick myself like a wounded dog but my tongue is too thick

 with dryness to move - too caked with scabbiness to work, too tied to emit another pathetic cry

Can other humans smell me?

Does my eye-stinging aroma linger above the mud like the putrid yellow smoke ,

Can they discern the brown odor of my fear over the familiar stench of death

mingled with the noxious orange napalm

Someone has died near me

I can smell him burning

the earth has no smell,  it's safe from sensual awareness

Can they hear me above the eternal roar?

Am I crying for my mother like a hungry baby?

Can I forget everything I ever learned and come back anew

an innocent pink suckling child


I wouldn't want anything in life next time

just to be

I wouldn't need sex

I don't need to touch a tit

I don't care about my cock

I won't want to smoke

I won't care for steaks hamburgers drinks drugs


There is no stillness only a steadiness of clamor as if it always was,

as if the very revolving of earth creates the obnoxious white noise

Can they hear a swollen moan through the decibels of death?

Is it the pierced air that screams with pain

do I hear trees shrieking with frag wounds

can someone nearby hear my emissions of tongue-tied guttural grunts?

Can I burrow into this earth?

Could I just leave my nose out to breathe?

cover it with leaves

Can I burrow into this earth?

Pull the curved steel trigger

send off return leaden rounds

kill something


Take life - any of the grotesque devils out there in the dark jungle

any of the gnarled demons dancing in the dimness around me

any of the deformed ogres laughing inside my boiled head

pull the cool trigger    aim at myself

Remember, there are poppies here too

Lest we forget, remember, remember.

Remember me.

No god would put us through this we're no better than ants,

I can burrow like one

I can burrow into this earth

pull at the cool cool trigger

save myself

go home

go home in the zippered cold womb of a black body bag.


Rest awhile - float serene,

amid the blue, embraced by green

Drink awhile from waters cool

Sip your fill of life's sweet pool

Warm caresses, wafting air

fragrant scents adrifting there

Wait awhile, touch your mind

replenish love

until your time

until your time


until your time


© RC Westerholm



Where has beauty gone?





You hide under ground when the enemy is near

you smell the acrid aroma of fear

you cry in the night but can’t shed a tear


You climb from your trench, resume the firefight

you cringe in the jungle to escape horror night

you look for a friend but your eyes have no sight


You search and destroy where ever you can

trudge through the muck of someone else’s great plan

a man washing bones is no longer a man


You eat rice or C-rations, a soldier of shame

you play by no civilized rules of the game

you’re VC or GI, they’re both just the same


© RC Westerholm



from my novel,    A Place in the Sky .........

Nathan said softly, "You guys turn around, go ahead through there."

I wasn’t sure if he meant to shoot us in the back but Zac followed the order obediently and we walked into another small clearing.

In it was an open-ended lean-to. Crudely crafted of scrap wood and cut poles. Corrugated tin roof. Sides open. The back was of hand-woven reed and leaves. Mats covered the ground inside. Joss sticks burned slowly, emitting thin lines of smoke which whisked away once out of the protective calm of the shed. Two bamboo poles at each front corner, decorated with faded red strips of paper. Tacked above the open front were poems written on scraps, the ink faded by the constant sunlight.

I tried to read them quickly.

Naked brother cries dry tears beside scorched roadside

Naked sister relinquishes innocence but not love

Naked mother’s dreams ooze away as lifeblood

Naked father swears eternal vengeance from above


Another started;

Walk the A Shou valley in mist

In silence where once God’s creatures kissed

Burnt napalm plant withers in charred ground

A man washing bones yet there is no sound

You know nothing, you do not belong here ...


The sun had bleached out the last line.

"Stop there," Nathan ordered. He passed us and went to the entrance of his hooch. Lit small pieces of paper and allowed the ashes to float to the ground. Some soared away on the breeze. I saw the craggy thin leaf of marijuana plants nearby.

"Gio-Lao," he said, watching the trees turn over their leaves in the wind, "the trades be getting stronger tonight."

There were several bottles of water. A six pack of 7-Up. Some canned food. A small styrofoam cooler. Rocks and sticks were carefully piled in a row to make a platform for the air mattress at the back. A few worn books, packages of three-hole writing paper, a ring binder with many shredded paper bookmarks, all on a long wide piece of board supported by piled lava rocks to form a desk. A lawn chair with broken off legs behind it. A plastic tarpaulin was attached above part of the gray tin roof.

A circular fire-pit smoldered at the open entrance, with a pot hanging from a tripod of branches. These were Nathan Bouchard’s possessions. I could see the handle of a bayonet poking out from beneath the mattress. A box of ammunition by the pillow.

"Sit here," he directed.




all writing and poetry this page copyright RC Westerholm


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War poems - perhaps the greatest ever written - In Flanders Fields

World War-2 poems

Vietnam War Poems




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