Flack Jacket
by Victor H. Bausch

Sometimes when it was too hot
to wear a shirt
and Major Stiles wasn't around
handing out Article 15's
like they were all purpose capsules
Bobby Joe wore his flak jacket
flaunted his white belly
and farmer's tan,
risked the demotion
and loss of pay.

His bro, Stevie R,
liked to strip to his waist.
Show off his 18 inch biceps.
Boasted he'd gotten his guns
at Al's Gym in Jersey.

Three Rivers, a Hopi indian,
felt like a buffalo hunter
wrapped in a wool overcoat
during the dead of summer.
He'd sprinkle the ground
with red dirt to cover the red
of his spirit
in this part of Indian country.

Bobby Joe, Stevie R, and Three Rivers
cleaned their M-16s
on top of their track.
Sat crosslegged
like tribal chiefs at a powwow,
drank Kool-Aid from their canteens.

It was so hot and humid
that vest and man bonded
like peanut butter
stuck to the roof of the mouth.

Last night
Bobby Joe dreamt
he'd met his wife
in Honolulu on R & R.

Stevie R ranted:
It's him or me,
kill or be killed.
Said, Ain't this a bitch.
We hunt Charles for weeks
and he don't want no part
of our shit.

Now, worked up
in a lather
Stevie R slapped a clip
into his M-16,
chambered a round,
flipped off the safety,
and pulled the trigger.

Bobby Joe groaned
like someone hit him
in the solar plexis.
A crimson spot,
the size of a dime,
appeared on his flak jacket
just above his heart.

He toppled over the side of the track,
landed face down,
sprawled and twisted
in the red dirt.

The only man Stevie R
killed during his tour
in Viet Nam.

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