a young John Wayne

A young Jerry Middleton, photographed by a friend in Vietnam

john wayne, the american cowboy
you can be him too, chant the troops,
follows the boy, still wishing for more than stubble
on his baby-soft chin.

pull up your boot straps, boy
towering over, says father
to war, you go, now is your duty

but rumbling streets, and white-brimmed hats
filled with beautiful young things
that only visit in the night
can't fight the feeling
nor the terror that lingers
when it's over.

touch the earth, young son
press your weathered face to my ground
rush, deep dirt, fill the holes
clothe him in the whispers
that run through the trees

rubbed raw, you are
bent in all the wrong directions
your soul sees no meaning
and your voice is lost upon the wind

for from the earth you came
and to earth you shall return
dear god, bring him here
where creatures sing
and the music of the rain brings sleep
to the young soul.

touch the earth, young son
fingers deep,
lined with red brown dirt,
let your feet fall softly among the tall grass
and listen for the whispers
floating among the trees.

-Juliette Lynch

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