On the Road to Satori – Haight-Ashbury

circles by orzz


” Joaquín doesn’t live here anymore. . .

he died of the Vietnam War
—from drugs and alcohol.”


—it’s what I tell whoever asks
about my brother these days

I remember Joaquín
he’d fill my head with stories
about his time stationed at Treasure Island
on leave while in the US Marines
after his tour in the ‘Nam

the summer of ’67 San Francisco
the long-legged blonde hippies on Haight sitting
on the sidewalk with blue eyes staring
spaced out…sit down I
think I love you

Eric Burton
at the Fillmore—before
there was an East and a West
singing blindfolded stoned
smoking a cigarette
tempting the edge
of the stage
tuned in
turned on
and dropped out
from the British Invasion


the yellow corn-cob pipe
and the nickel bag of Vietnamese
smuggled on the plane. I closed my eyes to
Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream my thoughts a stream
of moving pictures eyes closed
in an instant opened
to a new sense
of time and
space

The Belles of Picardy

… during
the Vietnam War
I became a conscientious objector

I looked with horror
at photographs of overcrowded cemeteries
with no room left to bury the dead

tombstones lined up shoulder to shoulder
on the landscape of Europe
like soldiers marching to their death

I remember
the photograph
of my father in uniform
bringing to mind that he had indeed
been one of the lucky ones
who had made it back in one piece
from the Pacific Theatre

in my head I heard bells tolling
hammering to the beat of foot marches
an anthem to the dead

and to my brother
who was yet to die the slow death
of Vietnam’s lingering poison

I called it
The Belles of Picardy
an imaginary war march sung by the nymphs
that beckon soldiers

from every cathedral bell tower
in every corner of the world
to the Fields of Flanders
Dunkirk
Da’nang
Iraq
Iran
–hell

coda:
(for years I had watched the dismal gray theater of Eastern Europe
never realizing that what they depicted could one day come true)


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