Louis Girón

The Mountain Moved

Our bunker shook; I felt the blast;
my corpse would be crisp and charred.
Would I talk to Dante at last?
where? paradiso?  inferno? purgatorio?
My dog tags would tell I fell in the DMZ
but none could say where I would go.


In that fraction of a second before the end,
I saw your twitchy eyes, like those on the watch;
saw your cartooned ski-slope nose,
saw the paranoid bobbing of your head;
heard your sanctimonious, huckster-evangelist voice
proclaiming your vision of the Word,
announcing again, so matter of fact,
in an endless tape, in an endless tape,
that spun again -- nightmare slow, as I turned.


The mountain moved.


I closed my eyes.  Instinct acted faster than logic. 
No one else had moved. If I had thought,
I would have remembered that radiation,
so close, so close, blinds even through closed lids
and that I would be blind even if I survived,
and even as I begged to die.


I completed the turn that I was unaware
that I started. My back now was to the blast wall
that had once been hollow. Now, filled and solid,
the wall was a Kleenex shield against a tactical nuke;
and my flak jacket, as solid as a politician’s pledge.


The mountain moved.


Dug into the side of the hill, our bunker shook.
Teeth rattled; shelves collapsed; bottles broke;
lights went out; Crosby, Stills and Nash stopped;
the medic choked on LRPs and a handful of Valiums.


Insects halted in mid-flight; only dust was left to breathe.
In that silent split-second hold on the movie screen,
I waited for the thermal wave to turn sand to glass
and sons and brothers to so much ash.
Nagasaki again, my brothers. This time by friendly fire.


The mountain moved.


You said, I had heard you say, that the use of thermonuclear
weapons had not been excluded in Viet-Nam.
In the instant that the mountain moved, I saw the butter-fly wings
of the áo-dài of the small brown women of Hué, 
the mottled light slanting through my grandfather’s apple trees,
the molten clouds gliding in yesterday’s sunset,
and the clasping of my infant daughter’s perfect hands.


Fear had no time to ignite; in its place, anger rose,
like white phosphorus, like Jeremiah’s in a holy pique,
consuming, more intense than an approaching nova.


The mountain moved.


We were not burnt, blinded or buried.
We felt no pressure wave, no reverse pressure wave,
We did not seek release from radiation sickness.
We survived. I did not die. 
A conventional explosion had shaken the mountain.
It doesn’t matter.


The mountain moved.


It should have fallen on you.




His mother’s mouth droops with each stride
of her only son who walks away from her.
He carries a new duffel bag; 
his face has the same smooth
surface.  He bounces toward his first war,
then stumbles up at the top of the gangway.


At that level, a first sergeant
leans with elbows on the railing,
and works on a stick of gum
like his usual chaw of tobacco;
otherwise, he is a wooden Cochise with creases
cut into the high cheeks of the pine of his face;
he gives no greeting and no grunt,
looks at no one and at everyone at once.


In the cabin, the young Marine’s buddies joke,
thump each other, bellow, don’t watch him
or else do watch him stuff the overhead.
They don’t stare at his shaking legs
and ignore their own. They have the same tattoos.
Their faces are shaved and smooth. 



the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long*

he planned our stand and, with it, his fate; our cloaks were red


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

he kissed me once after battle; my longing had no measure


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

his chest was as deep as the caverns at Delphi; his heart, slow


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

mine raced and tripped, fear was fever on my brow; I am his messenger


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

the price of their passage was as dear as our, or any, bargain with the Athenians


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

through the narrows, their minions and their pride came; then paid, bled, fled or died


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

then Xerxes’ brothers fell, the charges stopped, armies of archers drew their bows


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

the sky turned dark, whistling hawks plummeted, crows feasted


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

before, at these gates of fire, his eyes were brighter than thine


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

wolves are about, bring stones enough and that of the lion’s head


the doorkeeper’s feet are seven armlengths long

in time, he whispers to me, and now I to thee, there will no king of Persia

                                                                                                               ---except the Greek


*from a fragment of Sappho




Beautiful young men arm jostled, wrestled
and joked; boasts shot out, louder and larger,
as the silver plane banked and descended.


In the new AO, the day had begun
as any other with the same heat,
the same sky, and the same sun.

The air-conditioned charter,
following SOP, landed quickly
on a crowded airfield in Long Binh.


Then, one battalion was ambushed
within 25 clicks of base. The nearest MASH,
on the move, was down


The sweat from a hundred FNGs filled the cabin
well before doors opened to the heat
of the afternoon of the country called war.


In camp, 105s spat in reply. COBRAs
lifted off in hunting pairs. Medics
scurried in the aid station bunker.


On the tarmac, fumes of aviation fuel fought
and mingled with the needles-in-nose bouquet
of tropical blossoms and decay.


Refuse burned in barrels outside
the bunkers; the stench overpowered
the odor of antiseptic within.


In the terminal, bored REMFs in starched fatigues
followed commercial routines, restacked
treasures, the profits, and the consumables.


Torn, bloody, muddy, the now-older
soldiers shouted and hobbled to triage
to learn of fallen brothers.


About to deplane, would-be warriors halted
and fell silent. The adjacent larger plane loaded.
The sergeants rose and saluted. 


Barricaded, assaulted by the living,
blinded by unblinking stares, medics prepared
return shipments of beautiful young men.


Louis Girón grew up in San Antonio; was a battalion surgeon in Viet Nam; spent his professional life as a neurologist in the Midwest; and now lives in Western North Carolina where neighborhood bears, instead of rattlesnakes, greet him at the mailbox. Girón came to poetry late after a completed poem sprang up unexpectedly in the middle of a budget to a research grant. And what began as a curiosity continues as a necessity. His poems have appeared in Aji, Chest, Perihelion, Revue (Kansas City), Sunflower Petals, The New Millennium, The Potomac, The Same, VietNow, and Winning Writers.