I fought the Communists by Sissy Buckles

I ran into my street friend Paul yesterday
on the Mission Beach boardwalk.
It’s not his real name
he’s come from Cambodia,
born next to the Mekong River,
Mother of Waters and Nine Dragons.
If you ask he’ll tell you “I fought the communists”
cradling a ghostly gun in his skinny brown arms
wearing snakeskin boots and a duster
he got from Catholic Charities,
like a real cowboy.

I offered to buy him a burrito
but he pointed to his mouth, shaking head no.
Living on the streets for years
teeth decayed and abscessed from neglect
so he can’t eat, his mouth a river of pain,
and a damned shame because he is a Vietnam Vet,
should be eligible for benefits.
But Paul’s not a citizen,
can hardly speak the language
although he’s been in America since Saigon fell,
medivaced to the states for treatment,
I witness a man slipped down
bureaucratic cracks.

I’ve seen him wandering the beach alleys
chattering in his mother tongue
when he’s upset, wronged, misunderstood.
Once he told me he’d like to go home
but he’s got no home to go back to anyway,
his family forced in labor
then slaughtered in the killing fields
by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army,
along with artists, doctors, teachers, musicians, monks,
their motto for those chosen elite –
“To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.”
Where they still warn children
with educational posters hanging in the streets
not to play with landmines.

2 Responses to “I fought the Communists by Sissy Buckles”

  1. Roxie G Powell Says:

    This makes me feel bad all over….grinding my teeth that still have. rox

  2. Rex Sexton Says:

    Very powerful and poignant.

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