Vera Kewes Salter: Things My Husband Told Me

Things My Husband Told Me*

When college fell apart I returned
my burgundy Mustang and joined the Marines.

I was in my new uniform when a friend called
to me in horror as I crossed a San Francisco street.

We marched through the City of Hue before
it was destroyed and returned through the rubble.

I loved hearing Dionne Warwick as she
blasted over loudspeakers.

I jumped out of my well-dug foxhole
when an armadillo jumped in.

I felt warm as a baby in the arms
of the corpsman who carried me out with malaria.

We loaded body bags from the Forrestal fire
onto our hospital ship; there were more dead than they said.

They did not want black leaders but had
no choice after so many soldiers were killed.

The commander sat on the hillside as my
squad led this large Tet Offensive operation.

I told the radio man to go to the back but he said
I’m coming for you and slumped dead over my body.

Airlifted to a field hospital under gunfire I saw
a soldier strangle a wounded prisoner.

At home I discarded my uniform and almost
joined the Weather Underground but married instead.

*Originally published in Persimmon Tree.

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