The slouch of vietnam

Issue 

[Radical "poet lorikeet" Denis Kevans, who joined the LBJ protests in Sydney and in Canberra, sent the following poem which he presented to "concerts, smoke-ohs and rallies". It was published and set to music in February 1962 when the anti-Vietnam War protests started.]


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 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 dusk is falling here, the boxtrees' 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 the 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?

BY DENIS KEVANS

From Green Left Weekly, October 15, 2003.
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