The Slouch of Vietnam

Issue 

The Slouch of Vietnam

By Denis Kevans

Why should I wear the new slouch hat, the slouch of Vietnam,

Why should I share the napalm-guilt of blundering Uncle Sam,

Why should I hunt down peasant kids, who fight for rights and rice,

Why should I spill this hard-earned blood, in a sucker's sacrifice?

I think of my old Uncles, and their mates, who lie bone-white

On the far-off fields of Flanders, now who promoted that fight?

They'll teach you that life is precious, then they'll brush it aside, like dust,

But I won't give my life away, 'cause a brass hat says I must.

A chilly dust is falling here, the box-trees shadows stretch,

And through the ring-barked clumps I see the vanished soldiers fetched,

The tall plume on the horseman, the slant brim down below,

As, through the mists of memory, the slaughtered slouches go.

There's young Mick, the cricketer, from frosty Eucumbene,

And "Pally" Tom, the skinner, from Southern Riverine,

And, troop on troop, the squadrons pass, the sun across their cheeks,

Clay-cold, and pale as cellar-grass, and not one soldier speaks.

The slouch of brave Gallipoli, that blinded the diggers eyes,

The slouch of bloody Passchendaele, where the shell-shock case still cries,

The martyrs hanged in Changi, the heroes killed at Lae,

But the slouch of jungle paddies is a slouch I cannot pay.

Why should I wear that new slouch hat, the slouch of Vietnam,

Why should I share the napalm-guilt of blundering Uncle Sam,

Why should I hunt down peasant kids, who fight for rights and rice,

Why should I spill this hard-earned blood, in a sucker's sacrifice?

[I didn't need Robert McNamara to tell me about the Vietnam War. I wrote this poem in 1962 and recited it hundreds of times. It has been translated into Vietnamese, and is printed in the book Vietnam Remembered — DK.]