‘Nam and After: William E. Langford III

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Young, with lead capped molars,

his curling fro

is close cropped,

kept close,

like many a revolutionary

called up

back then

for exigent circumstances:


to rumble

in a jungle

so far

from his lover.


I imagine

the shouldery bulk

of his 21-year-old body,

lifting Kool 

to lips,

reminded of the taste

of peppermint candy,

reminded of home


in all that

muck and sweat,

all that green,



like the threat of 




We grew close here,

my father says

of the Black grunts

and the white grunts,

No color on the battlefield.


And after?

I ask.


I’ll tell you everything.



he says,

and there are no

purple hearts

for the after:

it was not a decent time,

he says.


I believe him.


I want to believe in war—

in all the dirt and sand

caked beneath the humvees,

and the droning of tanks and the loading of M-16s

and the slapping of backs and loading of packs,

the mix of iron and oil in the air, 

the ping of spent shells, trickling onto pavement, 

the sticky sweet smell of chew, 

the steel plates in the mess hall 

and so far, far away, the politicians.


I want to believe,

from behind my school desk,

that the war is far away,

that the war is over 

for my Father. 

Will “The Poet” Langford is an artist and educator from Detroit, Michigan. He is a member of the Riverwise Editorial team and a frequent contributor. For more, visit www.WillThePoet.com