Why I Wear a Boonie Hat

A collection by Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall


Why I Wear a Boonie Hat

Mostly to try to avoid speeding tickets
And maybe someone will say, “Thank you for your service”
And pay for my coffee in gratitude
But they just stop at “Thank you for your service”

Sometimes I meet some other old man
And we ask each other where we were
Memories – some of them surprisingly good
Others dark enough
And we were so young

My boonie hat keeps the sun off my head
And the fluorescents in the Social Security office
It makes me look like John Wayne in The Geriatric Berets
Not really. Maybe a different angle…how’s that?

And young women come up to me to say
That their grandfathers were in Viet-Nam


Among Sandbags at 2200 Hours – The Enemy Might be Listening

We were smoking and talking: girls, of course
And cars, and whether we would live, and then
Tolkien, Lewis, the nature of the Good
Poetry, free verse, blank verse, Cohen, McKuen

An officer barged along and sat himself down
And asked us what we were talking about
We mumbled noncommittal inanities
And then were mostly silent, blowing smoke

He may have concluded that we were stupid
Or that we were those radicals he’d heard about


Soldiers Sleeping Beneath a Bust of Father Abraham

In the Capitol exhausted soldiers sleep
Beneath a bust of Abraham Lincoln
And a sign that reads: “Cameras and related gear
Not authorized in this area.”

After days of transports and formations
Of stringing wire and policing the area
Of orders and marches and lines for the head
And maintenance of all weapons and gear

They sprawl just any whichaway on a floor
To be mocked with sneaky MePhone photographs
“Is that all our overpaid soldiers do? Sleep?”
And stepped around by those whom they protect

Insolent civilians might not give a damn
But our soldiers are blessed by Father Abraham

(Based on a photograph published in Drudge)


Sweepers, Man Your Brooms!

(It’s a Navy thing)

If you think you’re too special to sweep the deck
Well, you’re not; get over yourself and turn to
But if someone hands you a broom and a ‘tude
That Irish pennant needs to get over himself


An Anniversary of Sorts

On the 26th of October 1970 I returned from 18th months in Viet-Nam and a brief side-trip into Cambodia. I was literally just a boy off the farm when I went, and was quite young when I wrote the following artless lines, with their conventional allusions, forced rhymes, and usage errors, on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th anniversaries. Perhaps there is one from the 1st anniversary, but I can’t find it. Well, we are all are looking for something most days: a poem, truth, meaning, or some other trifle.

…the war – the frights…the smell of h.e., the horribly smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the…corpses…all this shows rarely and faintly in memory…and often seems to have happened to someone else.
-C. S. Lewis, “Guns and Good Company,” Surprised by Joy

26 October 1972

The pecans are falling now
Onto the court-house lawn
Geese fly overhead, southbound
Misty dusk and chilly dawn

Two years from Viet-Nam
Two eternities from the Vam Co Tay
Elections now, and speeches
And I guess I’ll have my say

But the finality briefly denied me
Found many another man
And they’re not here for elections
And Autumn on the land


26 October 1973

I sit and smoke my pipe and think
Of things that I have seen
Easter seals and steering wheels
And jungle hot and green

I sit and smoke my pipe and ponder
The imponderable of God and man
The evening star over a flare-lit war
And souls as grains of sand

I sit and smoke my pipe and mourn
For the murdered

Many miles, and three years today
From the muddy, bloody waters
Of the Vam Co Tay


26 October 1974

Many miles
And four years today
From the muddy, bloody waters
Of the Vam Co Tay

All the death-hurt eases
And dreams are quieter now
But the hurting never ceases
And I can’t see when it will, or how

Four Octobers
Four Autumns today
From rain drizzling on the slimy banks
Of the Van Co Tay

“Go and make the world safe for democracy –
Like we did in 1917,” my aged ancestor said
Dear old man, he never lived to know
That sort of thing is dead

Grim memories
Of flare-lit nights and steaming days
Of men dying screaming
On the Vam Co Tay

The finality briefly denied me
Found many another man
And they’re not seeing the wild geese flying
Or Autumn on the land

Many miles
And four years today
From the muddy, bloody waters
Of the Vam Co Tay

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