Dien Cai Dau
Mama-San says we are crazy-in-the-head.
The concern in her lilting, scolding voice betrays
an outer disdain. The mother in her hopes
we’re not out too late, that we’ll be careful
in the village as we chase whores, drunk
in dawn’s light crowing like roosters.
The patriot in her wants us gone.
Still, she shows up each morning
needing our dollar-a-week
to buy medicine for her girl.
Donaldson steals her pointy straw hat,
then hops around in a circle as if he were a chimpanzee
squealing dinky-dinky-dow, dinky-dinky-dow.
She curses him, this time in words we do not know.
Tonight we leave base camp. No hot meals, no
showers, and no Mama-San. Some of us will dull
our fear with dope. Some of us will never
be right again. Some will never come back.
We must be crazy to go out there each night.
Crazy to believe we could transform Vietnam
into the 51st state. Mama-San is right,
we’re all Dien Cai Dau.