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Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Vietnam War

February 28, 2012

Circle the Date

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Guest blogger Betty Plevney, Bravo! friend and supporter extraordinaire, muses on her memories of childhood and the Siege of Khe Sanh. Betty says that every time she tried to write this piece it wanted to come out as a poem.

Circle the Date

Red-eyed, bone tired jarheads tremble
as they sit in an outpost surrounded by
towering ridges deep in the boonies.
They do not want to die.
Not on this plateau, Khe Sanh.
Not in this country, Viet Nam.

I sit in the row next to the door, legs swinging
below my desk.  Eraser dust sifts
across my fifth grade assessment test.
I do not want to fail.
Choosing answers with care.
Choosing circles to ensnare.

I look up and catch my brother’s eye across the room.
He scrambles across a bomb-pitted field.

My brother smiles, eyebrows wiggling above thick dark glasses.
He wiggles down behind sandbags, incoming pelting the ground.

Behind him, I see snowflakes falling in thick white clouds,
pelting the windows.
He stares up at the clouds listening to his breath
in that one moment
when the chattering of explosions stops.

I turn my head, take a breath, and find the answer
to each question is complete.
My hand moves to circle the date.

His hand moves to find his legs,
his chest, his hip are no longer

Circle the date.
Sixty-six men with Bravo Company did
in early 1968.

Betty Plevney is a writer, mixed-media artist and graphic facilitator living in Richmond, Virginia. She explores the layering and juxtaposition of words, ideas and feelings in her writing, searching for the deeper meaning and textures hidden within the layers of life. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with a Masters in Writing. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BettyPlevney.

  1. Moving images….extraordinarily penned.

    Comment by Sheila — February 28, 2012 @ 10:19 am
  2. Thank you, Sheila. I appreciate your response and learning that the poem touched you.

    Comment by Betty Plevney — February 28, 2012 @ 10:47 am
  3. Betty, Each day we learn something new about a friend, a place in time, and thoughts long unexpressed. Your words are masterful and strong. Thank you for sharing, Shelley

    Comment by Shelley Macdonald — February 28, 2012 @ 10:52 am
  4. Thank you, Shelley. I have long been entranced by how we humans live our lives so separately, yet, at any given moment, someone is being born, someone is dying, someone is experiencing joy, or pain, or sorrow. Today, we connect in an instant with people at the far reaches of the globe. In 1968, we were just entering that place where the world showed up in our living rooms, live, on television in the moment a great event what occurring.

    This is a poem about a young girl and a Marine connecting across both time and place, though they don’t know each other, and also don’t know they are connecting in that moment through the vehicle of the young girl’s brother, with whom she shares a fifth grade classroom. I am that girl and my brother, Lou, is that young boy. The man is any one of the 66 souls with Bravo Company who gave their lives during the siege. Gave their lives for any number of political, patriotic or personal reasons. But, ultimately, gave their lives so that a fifth grade girl could grow up in a world free from just that much more pain, horror and terror.

    Comment by Betty Plevney — February 28, 2012 @ 11:18 am
  5. Having gotten to watch you work through this I am now amazed by how perfect and right this seems despite any initial questions you had about what it might become. Its perfect and tells just the right story as only you could. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Michelle — February 28, 2012 @ 5:29 pm
  6. I read and re-read this and a different part blows me away each time. Thank you for capturing this amazing moment and saving it for us! I will look on The Wall with new eyes the next time I’m in DC.

    Comment by Louis Erste — February 28, 2012 @ 6:02 pm
  7. I am always amazed at your insight and ability to communicate in the written media. You have a gift and use it well. You deserve all the accolades you receive – and more.

    Comment by Rose — February 29, 2012 @ 8:55 am
  8. Very nice work Betty! Or should I say BRAVO!!

    Comment by Lindsey — February 29, 2012 @ 6:39 pm
  9. Very well said, Betty. Thoughtful and appropriately formal. I can recommend a very fine film called “Regret to Inform” about widows of men who died in Viet Nam, both American and Vietnamese. It is well worth look. Your poem is timely a well, what with the wars winding down for the moment.

    Comment by Will — March 2, 2012 @ 9:20 am
  10. One fine poem. Thank you for sharing it!

    Comment by Ruth Salter — March 6, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

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