Where Were You?


Where Were You?
Where were you when the shooting began?
When we leapt to our guns.
Hearts pounding, eyes staring,
as we tried to see everything at once.
Our only thought – survival.

I see you now.
Where were you when the air
was humming with death?
A melody so easy to play.
A tapping giving way to the bass,
a crescendo, leading to a finish like no other.
The deep low notes of metal eating flesh.

That’s when I saw you.
You came to feast on the spoils,
your sustenance lay there.
Its life blood your bounty.
You were the only thing of beauty
hovering in the long grass
where an enemy lay.
A man, shattered and torn.
His face grotesque in death.
We were given a glimpse of our mortality                                                                                                  and hated him for showing it to us,

It didn’t bother you.
You couldn’t see the bloodied
picture of his wife and children.
Would they ever know? I doubt it.
He would always be a stranger,
a shadow to them.

We dug his bed in the rich,
jungle soil and laid him there.
A stone for a pillow,
the sod for a blanket.

You couldn’t leave him.
You danced your dance,
on his grave.
Your yellow wings,
the only flowers that showed.
A Soldier lay there.

Laurie Smith copyright 2013.


I used one of my pictures from Vietnam, it shows us test firing our weapons before heading out on patrol. I converted it into that grey steel look to show the cold, impersonal nature of war. Both men and machines are now blended into one. The poem is about my feelings after a contact when a North Vietnamese soldier walked into our laager. Naturally it hit the fan. I’d had the misfortune to see violent death while still a child, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw that day. My position in the vehicle was the gunner. When it was all over the butterflies came, hundreds of them drawn by the smell of blood and the salt it had to offer. When we drove away I looked back and saw that they’d covered the grave . Years later I spoke with a Mate, he had searched the body and found the photo of a woman and two children in a tattered wallet. I remember looking at it at the time, a creased black and white photo. No different to what any other soldier carried of his loved ones, I think that more than his death brought home to me that he was no different to me, a man, a human being. Now my Mate was a big rough and ready bloke, who died a couple of years ago, he came to visit in the late 90’s. After a couple of beers he took that picture out of his wallet and showed it to me. He’d carried it for 30 years and still felt guilt over the death.


13 thoughts on “Where Were You?

  1. Pingback: YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW, part 26. Just when you thought it was safe to play in the Jungle. | laurie27wsmith

  2. patgarcia

    What can I say? If only this poem was required reading in the books of the world and translated in every language, maybe we would finally began to understand and the ideologies of this world would disappear and we would become men and women who live together in harmony.
    Thank you my dear Brother.


    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Hi Sis, Thank you, that’s a beautiful comment. It’s so easy to believe that we are better than them, yet underneath it all we are the same. We bleed and die just like everybody else.
      Thank You,
      Your Bro.


  3. Raani York

    Laurie, this is a very strong and powerful poem. Together with the pictures you chose it left me weeping in front of my monitor. This isn’t bad. It’s just a prove how impressive your post is!!


    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Why thank you Raani, I’m glad/sorry I made you cry, I guess it speaks about the work if it gets reactions like that. There a more to come in the weeks ahead. Get the tissues out.


      1. Raani York

        Thanks for the warning Laurie. At least I’m mentally prepared! It was “good” crying… just very emotional!!


    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks Susan, it’s quite a compliment. I like to write poetry and verse that people feel in their gut. The pic is one I took and embossed. Looks a little alien. Cheers,


  4. Tami McVey

    Laurie, your words left a powerful impact on my heart. I don’t even have the appropriate words to convey what I want to, it struck me that deep. Beautifully done.



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