Poem: 'Still Looking for Home' | Poetry | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Poem: 'Still Looking for Home'

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I was a simple soldier called to fight in an ordinary war

My buddy Dana went to Toronto but I answered the call

I didn't know then that you didn't have to have your leg blowed off to come back wounded

Son of a bitch, what happened over there? I still don't know and I'm running out of time

The war was raging and in the States there were cops in the streets making sure that everybody stepped the right way

They were electing a president and the way things looked was more important than the way things were

The guys without the billy clubs had blood on their faces but were talking calmly and making the most sense

The night before I left I can still hear my dear mother crying as the door closed behind me on the old homestead in Vermont

I can still see the tears of my sweet darlin' shooting straight out before they trickled down her cheeks the next morning as she

came to see my bus drive off. My last glimpse she was sitting on the sidewalk crying her eyes out as people rushed up to her

I left my bride and took a ride on a Greyhound headed south with a bunch of scared kids

In our hearts we all knew we were going to die in some jungle in a far away country we never heard of until a

couple of weeks before.

Sixteen hours later I was sworn in and on government soil when I saw my first fighting

Two guys that had never been introduced but were certain they couldn't stand each other and it was the opposite's fault

tried to settle the Civil War once and for all

But it was a 100 years too late, some issue or another about skin color

I was in the mix at mighty Fort Dix and that's the way it started

Those nice gentlemen in charge taught me the spirit of the bayonet was to kill and how to throw a hand grenade just right

Five months later I was ready to go do what I was brought there to do

I couldn't spell that foreign land or pronounce that foreign land the same way two times in a row

But I knew neither was required to die in that foreign land

Plans changed and they sent me to old Koree 'cause the current dictator was acting up

The sergeant gave me 200 rounds of ammo and told me to shoot anyone that didn't look like me

I says "Sarge what happens if the bullets run out but the 'not me's' didn't?"

He says "Come see me for further instructions" and laughed hysterically as he turned and walked away

The North Koreans and the Chinese never came down, I don't believe it was for humanitarian reasons either

I never had to shoot anyone but a few times I had to look real stern and scare 'em

On the flight back they said we were just there to be a deterrent anyway

Right near the end my mind went and I started feeling ways I didn't know I could feel, none of which were good

Sarge says "Don't worry, it's just stress, you'll be alright when you get home"

The problem was I never got home. Oh sure I made it back to my native locale and the house was still there but the home was gone

Growing up all the men in my neighborhood had been to World War II, most fought in Europe, the rest in the Pacific

They all drank beer, smoked cigarettes, worked all the time and didn't talk much

When they smiled their expressions revealed that somewhere along the way they had the juice squeezed out of them

Like one of the limes at a cocktail party that they didn't get to go to celebrating the end of the war

As a boy I used to think that was the way men were. Only after I came back did I realize that no,

that's the way men were that had been to war and seen too much.

They all rest in peace now in a final formation in the churchyard on Chapel Hill

It's fifty years later and I'm still looking for home. Maybe that's it over there through the mist

Prayer and loving better than I used to have allowed me to get this far, but it ain't home

Let's see where it takes me from here

Bill Hickok, 75, of Burlington, served in the U.S. Army 1969 through 1970. He attended the University of Vermont, raised a family and has retired from a career in insurance, but he says he’s still seeking “the feeling of joy I had before the military.” He began writing poems during the pandemic. This one is published in honor of Veterans Day, November 11.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Still Looking for Home | Dedicated to Ellen"