Bill Jones

Bill Jones served with the 3rd Marine Division as an artillery forward observer in Vietnam. "I went to boot camp at Parris Island and infantry training at Camp Lejune. I ended up with a 105 howitzer battery in Vietnam," Jones said. "I had it better in 'Nam than some, worse than the majority. One ten-day operation, I saw more combat than anytime else...I remember praying to live one more day, because it would have been ridiculous a request, even of God, to ask for a week."

Since returning from Vietnam, Bill Jones received a Masters degree in psychology, "which wasn't of much use" and has had a variety of jobs, including railroad detective. He lives in Lander Wyoming and his business cards read, "Bill Jones, Cowboy Poet."


Three soldiers from the North
Burned for reasons
Of sanitation.
Arms shrunk to seal flippers
Charred buttocks thrust skyward
They burned for five days.
It was hard to swallow
Difficult to eat
With the sweet smoke of seared
Flesh, like fog

Twenty-five years later
They burn still.
Across seas of time
The faint unwelcome odor
Rises in odd places.
With a load of leaves
At the city dump
A floating wisp of smoke
From the burning soldiers
Mingles with the stench
Of household garbage.

Once, while watching young boys
Kick a soccer ball,
The death Smell filled my lungs.
As I ran, choking
Panic unfolded
Fluttering wings
Of fear and remorse.
A narrow escape.

A letter, snatched from flames
The day we burned them
Is hidden away
In a shoebox
With gag birthday cards,
buttons, string rubber bands.
A letter from home?
The Oriental words,
Delicately formed,
Are still a mystery.


My father and I
Sit in the shade
Of a chinaberry tree
Talk softly of the last good war.
A time of ration cards
And Gold Star Mothers.
"A uniform meant free drinks
And a lot more,"
My father says.
"But they kept me training pilots
And wouldn't let me go."

In the lower pasture
a phantom chopper whines
Rotors thrash hot wind
As it wobbles upward
With another half-dead cargo.
I blink the image away

"I won't ask if you killed anyone,"
My father says,
"Because I don't want to know."
Just as well, I think angrily,
My personal count is a little hazy.
Like the pregnant woman at Gio Linh
(She never should have run)
Zapped by a battery of howitzers

Raising puzzling statistical questions.
How do I mark her?
One and a half? Two?
"Drop 100 meters," I whisper.
"Fire for effect."
"Roger that," the RTO replies.

Arm in arm
My father and I
Walk awkwardly toward supper
And the 6 o'clock news.

The chopper drones
Tilts plexiglass nose
to a hospital ship.
The woman at Gio Linh
Seeing her chance
Dashes like a sprinter
Legs punping furiously
For a stand of scrub oaks
Behind the barn.
"It's a shame," my father says,
Climbing the back steps,
"You didn't get to serve
In a real