Friday, June 19, 2009

What A Way To Go

A 60-year-old homeless man
who used a wheelchair
was found dead behind a convenience store
police think the death was accidental.
Jimmy had a wound on the back of his head
It appears he went behind the Food Mart
to use the bathroom.
Investigators suspect he stood up,
then fell and hit his head,
"We’re not treating it as a homicide
at this time.
It looks accidental
and we’re awaiting medical examiner reports."
So sad. He was a Vietnam veteran.
60, homeless, pissing behind a building.

Poetry Man

He started writing poetry
to block out the pain of Vietnam.
He's encouraging other writers
to share their writing and learn from each other.
The 60 year old Vietnam veteran
meets with a group of other veterans
The majority are Vietnam veterans,
but there's one or two from the Iraq War.
A person goes through these things
and doesn’t think anybody else
has ever experienced them,
and you find out they have..
He served in the Army in Vietnam
"It lasted my whole life," he said.
Poetry is therapeutic.
Poetry tends to cut out the clutter.

Welcome Home

A 60-year-old man assaulted
while watering plants in a traffic circle
is a Vietnam veteran who survived the war
only to be critically injured
and left to die in his own hometown.
It's hard to describe.
It's something you wouldn't wish
on your worst enemy,
There's no cause for it.
A man walked up to him
and slugged him during the incident,
described as "roundabout rage."
The punch knocked the veteran
to the pavement, and he landed
flat on the back of his head,
cracking his skull.
The victim took great pride
in maintaining the traffic circle,
next to his home.
He is a former lieutenant
who served in Vietnam,
who now loved gardening
and taking care of his dogs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just An Old Man

A reclusive Vietnam veteran
was found murdered
at his home in the hills.
The 62 year old was killed
by blunt force trauma.
The homicide has people feeling edgy
Neighbors called the crime
“very disturbing”
they couldn’t imagine why anyone
would want to kill an old man
who mostly kept to himself.
He did not have electricity or running water
and often slept in his truck.
He could often be seen riding
his off-road motorcycle
or four-wheeler around the area,
a heavily-wooded hilly spot.
He was a “nice guy”
with no wife or children.
“Nobody bothered him,
and he didn’t bother anybody else.”
“It’s pretty weird,”
“He was just an old man.”
He “had some phobias,”
sometimes thinking
he was being spied on or watched.

A Classic Example

He’s a classic example
of an individual that was never
able to transition back
He died homeless,
alone in the woods on a mattress.
He was buried
with a General present,
an honor guard made
a rifle salute
to the deceased Vietnam veteran.
He died of natural causes from heart failure.
Just another casualty of the Vietnam War.
It just took a few more years
to run its course.
The 64 year old was buried
next to his father.
Both were sergeants in the U.S. Army.
The father in World War II,
His son in the Vietnam.
He graduated in 1967
signed up for the Army,
to fight in Vietnam.
He just wanted to put in
his two years
and get out.
He returned
but he didn't really leave Vietnam.
People expected him to be
the same person that left,
but he was different.
His dad saw the difference.
"You're shell-shocked,"
He was found in a small wooded area
behind a gas station.
A lot of people knew of him.
He was homeless
for at least 25 years.
There's no clear record
of what happened to him
after his tour in Vietnam.
A classic example of an individual
that was never able to transition back.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Old Wounds

They are graying, balding, and bespectacled.
It took nearly 30 years
before they could bring themselves
to the mental health clinic.
Only recently have they begun
to deal with the psychological wounds
that they sustained in Vietnam.
Many are retiring,
giving them
more time alone
with their memories.
As they age,
many have quit drinking
and using drugs,
which they had used to cope.
Some are dealing with family issues
— like the death of a spouse
or birth of a grandchild
— that prompt them
to re-evaluate their lives.
Others have succumbed
to a barrage of graphic images of war.
mechanisms used over the past 40 years,
aren't working anymore.
You can only drink so much.

The Ghost Of Christmas Present

Hours before his frozen, lifeless body
was found underneath a bridge on Christmas eve,
He told a friend
he was fed up with life
on the streets.
He was cold.
He was tired.
He was ready to change his life.
But, it was to late.
The middle-aged veteran
was found dead,
wearing just a light jacket
no hat or gloves.
It looked like he fell asleep
and froze to death.
He was frozen solid.
He was not
your typical homeless person
who felt society
owed him something.
He was just on hard times
and didn't know
how to deal with things.
He died
a block
from a shelter.


There's a thin line
between despair and hope.
He sleeps on a bare mattress
on the carpeted floor
of a warm room for homeless veterans.
He and three other men share a house.
The walls are almost bare.
On top of the refrigerator
sits an array of pill bottles
which fail to stop the nightmares
he’s suffered since returning home
from Vietnam 30 years ago.
He works to stay sober
attending meetings four times a day.
It has been a 36 year battle with the bottle.
A stable place to live
has altered the pattern of crisis.
He has a place he can call his own
and his feet are grounded.
Hope discovered in the routine of daily life.
There are wicked, wicked, wicked nightmares.
The VA gives him all kinds of pills to forget.

Delayed Death Syndrome

It seems like every month
they are falling like flies.
He was 59
when found dead in the late winter.
Evicted from public housing,
he died of hypothermia.
It was 29 degrees that night.
The body was found in tattered clothes
and his shoes were held together by string.
It took three months to find next of kin
--his mother is in her eighties
She’s in failing health --
her son in cold storage.
She had braced herself for a call
when he was in Vietnam.
She wrote the president
to send her son home before he died.
He lost his mind
and his memory in Vietnam.
No one broke through the walls of his silence
and trauma to help him.
Death was the inevitable result
and it was neither sweet nor proper.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Joe is Dead

Now that Joe is dead
people are rushing to honor him.
He was a Vietnam veteran.
A sergeant in the Army.
They carried his flag-drapped casket
to the national cemetery
where a cluster of strangers in uniform saluted.
A chaplin prayed, a recording of taps was sounded.
A funeral home donated it's services
to keep him out of the pauper's cemetery.
When Joe was in the hospital
and barely breathing,
doctors hovered over him for a week.
No telling how much money
it cost to keep him alive.
His friends wonder
why attention wasn't given to him
as he huddled in the cold,
homeless, psychotic and filthy,
before he was beaten
outside a downtown church.
The former soldier was killed
for a few dollars.
He was on a public street.
The VA hospital declined
to admit him for treatment.
He was not a threat to himself or others.
He was assaulted by thugs
and beaten to death
all alone in the cold.

Warning Sign

He left for war in 1966 a boy
and came back a drunkard,
pill-popper and cocaine addict.
His former boss and former wife
will tell you he came back
an all-around pain in the ass
with a vicious temper
and venomous mouth
he couldn't control.
His mother took him in
when he couldn't afford a place
to live because paying for booze
and dope came first.
He might have ended up homeless.
That's what war does to you.
That's what combat can do.
Behind a haunting blue-eyed stare,
he offered his warning to soldiers fighting
America's new war on terror
and those who will go later.

Land Of The Lost

The closest thing he has to an address
is a mail box inside the Mail Box store.
61 years old, a Vietnam veteran
and retired government employee.
He resents being called an eyesore.
He and his wife have been homeless
for months
and live in the park.
It's a traumatic experience.
He doesn’t know where they will go.
No place to stay.
He can't drive.
No bus pass.
Treated like dirt
because they have no control of their lives.
He’s tried everything.
It's rich against poor.
He served his country in Vietnam
and got decorated.
No one cares that he’s a veteran
or disabled or old.
The couple go to the park each night
and leave at dawn pushing a cart
with their belongings
to the shopping center to their mailbox
hoping to find something in the mail
like a little bit of money.

The Man In 103

He once dodged bullets for his country in Vietnam.
He dodges cockroaches in a flea-bag motel now days.
Stuck in Room 103,
he can't find a place to stay in the city.
Stuck in a rat-infested place,
he’s like hundreds of veterans
living in cars, motels or on the street.
He knows one veteran who lives at a dorm
for employees of the race track.
Another veteran wanders down Broadway.
He knows of some veterans who camp in the woods.
Vets are living with their brothers and sisters
because they can't afford rent.
Too proud to say they are hurting
and at their ropes end
for a warm place with food.
He has practically given up.
Just a cardboard box of possessions
in his motel room.
Troubled by the stress of a long lost war,
he takes a van to the VA hospital
and looks for an apartment.
and tries not to come back to Room 103
until the traffic and shouting
coming through the paper-thin walls
quiets at night.

Dead Friends

A few days ago
he found his friend
dead at the shopping plaza.
The 65 year old homeless Vietnam veteran
was found dead himself
in the same plaza.
He found his friend dead
behind a pet store.
He was found dead
near a supermarket on the plaza.
His last known address
was the Veterans Hospital
Officials say He died of natural causes.
His friend died of heart disease.

To The Mainstream

So many men have suffered for years in silence.
They don't know why they suffer daily.
It always affects their home life and jobs.
He lives in a new home for veterans.
A place to form a family and start over.
It's a colonial-style house
near a doctor's office and residence.
A home for four.
He’s the only resident.
A disabled Vietnam veteran
who's clean and sober.
He gets 800 dollars a month.
“Where are you going to live on that?”
He wants to rebuild family values
and look at how he got to be where he is.
There's no one to pamper him.
It's a last step in getting out
of the being homeless
and back to the mainstream.