Thomas Brinston 


Thomas served in II Corps, Qui Nhon 67-68. He was one of the many readers that stopped by our tent and read with us on one of his visits to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Tom lived in Tuson, AZ and made the transition to upsate New York and is quite active in local Veteran activities.




patriotic pondering



i was born

in a certain place

within a particular country


but that happenstance alone

is not enough - - no it doesn?t suffice

to induce in me peacocked pride

stirring loyalty or blind patriotism



somewhat thankful

am i for it

now i serve it

in a war-torn land

distant and strange and unnecessary

where i just might die for it

or so the newspapers shall say

gallantly waxing trite rhetoric and hollow pomp

i'll just be dead - - small comfort for my next-of-kin


soon i may return to it

and maybe be happy in it

for awhile

but that won"t make me stay

i very well may leave it


not quite ready yet

to fully accept

to be definitively sure

that some other place

other than it

far-off or near

isn't greater better

or more relevant


Somewhere in Vietnam

Sometime in 1967-68




it's mostly the eyes

that get to you

here in this

war-lulled  place


those glazed

by pain

or death



others tinted

with just a trace of tears


the eyes filled too much

with far away memories


eyes not hoping enough

that stare at nothing

especially at walls


but the eyes

that bug you the most

are the moon-filled eyes

of the children


with malnutrition

which barely

are touched by

slightly gleaming of

the tiniest spark

of an always



Summer, 1967

Qui Nhon, Vietnam



War Person


Deep grief rages

            unresolved within me

Unquenchable tears squeezed dry

            unreleasingly flow

No bottom

No relief

No end

Always there

            just behind awareness

            ready to spring forth

            at the drop of a memory

            the turn of a thought

            about war


W . . . A . . . R

It haunts me

It pursues me

It badgers me

                 casting a pallor of gloom

                 throughout my being

My dark obsession with war

My love-hate relationship with war

My intrusive preoccupation with war

It seems they have always been with me


Christ--I was a war-baby

                 conceived at the turning point

            of  "The Good War"


An early memory is listening

            with Mom by the new kitchen sink

            to a radio broadcast of Eisenhower

                 consumate Father-General

                 explaining Korea


So hurtfully shamed I was

            that Dad stayed stateside and didn?t fight

                 teaching navigation to the poor basturds

            who got shot up over Dresden or Okinawa

            when taunted by snot-nosed playmates in wooded forts


No trophies for me to brandish                                                                          


I remember how precious

            was the black plastic machine-gun

            so shiney with the bright blood-red bullets

            a ten-year-old's Christmas present to celebrate


As a barely aware boychild

                 voraciously I read

            every war novel and voluminous war history

            I could clutch my chubby hands on


On Saturday afternoons

            again and again we?d watch the heroic endeavors

                 splashed on silvered screen in darkened matinees

            of Wayne McQueen Cooper Murphy & Peck

            or see reruns in flickering tv black and white

            of Combat  Flash Gorden  Blackhawk


Very ironic my disappointment

            and already seething resentment

                 fearfully whispering to buddies

            in dimming light of Boy Scout campfire

            that we wouldn?t have a war

            to valiantly perform acts of courage in

            when the '56 Suez Canal crises

                 sputtered to a truce without hostilities

            just as Vietnam loomed

                 miniscule still

            to stain inexorably darker

                 blotting itself right in the middle

            of our generation


We got our war after all


Compelled I was to go

            to volunteer

            to experience that little war

            would-be and dirty

            of my generation

                 despite my abhorrence and disgust

            my soul-quaking doubt



            I was a Peacenik demonstrator

            and an advanced ROTC student in college

            both horrified and fascinated

            by my role of officer-soldier


Manically I dreamed blood-dark dreams

            of violently gallant glory suicidal

                 charging up some thickened jungle slope

            into a hail-fire of slicing AK-47 rounds


To have Charlie do to me

            what I was too chicken to do to myself

            even when blitzed on shots

            of bar whiskey and San Miquel


And it happened

                 despite my fervent death-wish to the contrary

            I survived

*    *    *

Now almost two decades later

                 despite Sara?s and my strong prohibition

                 against guns or war toys

            son Thomas barely six

            is fixated on

            Rambo Ninja GI Joe

                 Transformers Commando Karate Kid


Through such means

            do we teach our gender

            the race-consciousness of war


Just this Saturday past for example

            in K-Mart he wanted so passionately

            the guerrilla-style M-16


"Please, Dad, Please. It?s only a toy, Dad. Please"

            his beaming face begged up at me


So much a part of me

                 wanted him to have it

            and one for me too  


Then I could take him to some

            deep dark sun-patched wood

            to charge through some mutually fantasized

            virtual image of heroically routing

            for freedom

            for the redwhite&blue

            for mother and the darlin? little sweetheart

            back in the homeland

            a dreaded dastardly enemy?s ambush

            in gallant uphill rush


To show him the ropes      

            the tricks

            the little secrets

            of successfully challenging fate

            again and again by repeated rolls

            of the combat dice


To play war games (again) with him


Sometimes I despair

            how I can teach him to abhor

            what so much a part of me still so loves


Star Wars   The Road Warrior   Enemies

            my precious New York Giants even

                 sublimated wish fulfillments to go forth and kill


Sara wishes for me not to be a woman

            to suffer through the monthly cycle of hormones

I wish for her not to be a man

            to suffer through this obsession with killing


Neat balance


So  .  .  .  what do I conclude

                 winging my way skyward toward Buffalo

                 through this brilliantly bright New York State early summer morning

            over checkered fields of sundry muted green-browns

            and haphazard windings of rivers and roads

            with the tears just streaming again down

            my sun-tanned-and-glassed countenance

            while my fellow yuppie business-person passengers

            pass the time behind designer attaché cases orWall Street Journals


Maybe . . . just perhaps

                 through this process of working through

            once more my meta-grief about war

            I shall somehow become more a peacemaker

                 waging peace


No war

            is ever worth





Early Summer, 1983

Garden City, NY





wide-mouthed, eyes slack

i stare in terrible awe

at the acres X acres X acres

stretching the wide horizons

on both sides of the road

just east of Davis Monthan Air Force Base

millions of dollars to the tenth or so power

of moth-balled flying war machines,

Sleek F-16s, F-14s, stubby A-10 Thunderbolts

even vintage F-4 Phantoms from the travesty

of my ignoble war so long, long ago

balanced on the left by scores and scores

of C-130s, C-5s, C-141s and here and there

a Stratotanker or three


a companion notes that they've cut way back

on the number of aircraft in storage

"Used to be over 8,000, now its down

somewhere near 5,000 or less planes"

all battened down tight, gathering dust

in the hot Southern Arizona desert


let's see, at a conservative estimate

of $25 million a pop neatly stacked row by row

that's billions and billions of dollars sitting idle

in this one Air Force Base alone


no wonder the poor go hungry

the homeless litter the dirty streets

and the sick and aged lie alone slowly dying

warehoused in overstuffed cadaver wards

while school children lay fallow in boredom


May 16, 2002

Tucson, AZ



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