Clyde Wray


Clyde Wray volunteered for Vietnam.  He arrived from Germany with 101st
Airborne Division and was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade 1967-1969. 
He makes his living as poet, author, playwright, and director.  Clyde has published
several books of poetry and resides with his family  in Canada.  Clyde is co-founder
of the Memorial Day Writer’s Project.  You can hear and read more of Clyde’s work at




Fifty-Five Gallons

(For Kendricks)


We were digging trenches

for the shitter

new in country


Rookies got the clean


walking point


Skinning potatoes

slicing onions

in the mess hall


In the rear

mostly digging trenches

for the shitter


Rolling fifty-five gallon

drums of shit

torching them


After a while

torching  came easy

hell, we torched the country



My Own True Love, War

From the Diary

Within My Head


My own true love, War

it never leaves me

it touched me roughly

in my early twenties

swept over me fully

swallowed my youth

it’s there in my diary when I sleep


The smell of sulfur,

cordite, napalm

smell of death

my best friend

my own true love, War

brings me camaraderie

it’s there in my diary when I sleep


God bless me father

in the middle

of the fight

Lord knows we must

have been right

reruns are on -- each night

it’s there in my diary when I sleep


Oh my god, I am half sorry

shot him in the chest and not

the head; he rolled over

shot Fred, dead

see me bent over


it’s there in my diary when I sleep


Guest Speaker


It’s always the same questions

perhaps they think with time

the answers will change


like the dead aren’t dead

or agent orange really

wasn’t something the

government would do


So it’s always

why was Vietnam

so different?


sad to think

you can’t tell them

to go to the history books

because the books carry folk-tales

and nowhere is there a

grain of truth


So it’s always the same question


Who is McNamara

and the answer is

he’s a traitor and a banker

on an international scale

but if you want you can

always go and buy his book


But the real question

hasn’t been asked

we’re still in the prelims

the warm-ups


like, was it really that hot there

and what did the gooks cook

did you see any tigers hiding

in the elephant grass and was

the grass really good

and why did they call the VC Charlie

and what’s a monsoon?


and now

ladies and gentlemen

the main event

this is what the prelims

lead up to

because the question is always

the same


How many people did you kill?


And always I wonder

which will be the hardest hole

to fill

the one in my heart

or the one that waits on the hill


Of Common Ground


I want to write, but my inkwell

            is full of the blues

my pen draws up nothing but bad news


I  want to write, oh how I want to write

            but my inkwell dries up with fear

the moment a kind word appears


I want to write but my pen is a reminder

            that war is unkind

battles won and lost to men white, red and brown--


Men with life in common, men of common ground


I want to write, but my ink has turned red

            unsightly on my paper; I keep seeing the dead

forging through a desert or sniping off a roof


I want to write to the men who kill other men

            if the truth be told, there is no excuse

Men intricately woven, men of molten steel


I want to write, but the vultures are flying over

            Somalia and Bosnia, enticed by the bloody red

of unseeing children's eyes laying dead


I want to write to the men who stand on hallowed ground

            where children lost their birthright

and are eaten by buzzards now


I want to write, though it seems I've lost the flair of

            candy apple sweetness and saffron air



A Brief Encounter, Remembrance Day


We stopped him briefly

we wanted to say, that is to thank him

for his courage, for not having feet of clay

for his deeds and actions that gave us

Remembrance Day.

His eyes were worn

his skin a leathery gray

a black beret tilted on his hair of gray

his chest heavy with metals from acts committed

during those dark, cold miserable days

days  so hot he thought he was in the center of Hades.

He spied the Red Poppies on our chest

hesitated before he said....

“ The friends that I left behind would be grateful to know

I found a man and woman that know respect

are grateful that they gave their ultimate last breath

to preserve freedom fair

so that they could still pick flowers

linger there in the bright blue crisp air

unhampered by a foreign ideology

that would have changed this countries’ psychology”

He said “ Remembrance Day is different for me

I know the blood that has kept this land free

I love this land this land of freedom.”

As he spoke a tear filled his eye

his shoulder shook quickly then came a wary smile

“ Thank you “ he said,

“ thank you for stopping me and the friends I’ve always kept with me

though you can’t see them they are here

in spirit and I’ve always held them dear”

He saluted, turned in a military way, head held high

then strolled away

and we

we are forever changed,

everyday now is Remembrance Day, everyday freedom is gained


November 10, 2004



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