This is a poem written by a friend of mine and high school classmate of my father’s. He was drafted to fight in Vietnam at the age of 19, and he couldn’t read. But, he’s an incredibly smart person and a poet at heart - I believe he dictated this one to his sergeant, who then enclosed in in a letter to his (the sergeant’s) wife.

Written to the corpse of an old Papa San who was lying alongside the trail:

A tired, weathered face

Eyes staring blankly into space

The scars of pain time won’t erase

Can you explain to me this place

Please tell me sir

Are all the people here so poor

That they must steal and beg for more

Your daughter was she forced to whore

Or is it all just part of the war

Please tell me sir

Is that where you once worshiped God

Just down that path so heavily trod

But all that’s there is upturned sod

Of all of this, it seems so odd

Please tell me sir

I heard a mother’s mournful cry

The saddened looks of passers by

Destructive waste, so much that I

Just cannot comprehend the why

Please tell me sir

I’ve read of this, the place of Hell

And all the other things they tell

But you lived here and knew it well

A shame you heard the tolling bell

Well good day sir

Written by Eric Hollenbeck

101st A Shaw Valley

Vietnam 1968, age 19

You can also watch a short film about Eric and his work with wood and other veterans on Vimeo: