Shadows and Vegetation


The Crown Prince gets preferential treatment

In the Hanoi Hilton. Hear the songbird sing

Of kind handling by the people he has injured

From the air. What will the rear admiral think though,

Should his son accept that offer of release?

Better hang on in there, rather than return

Ignominiously at best, at worst a Rose of Tokyo.


“Darned if I will,” says the cowboy who has destroyed

As many of his country’s planes as he has of the enemy’s –

Lopping power-lines from the sky, airman out of a rodeo.

“Pa’s in command of all our forces here in the Pacific.

Can’t just hold my breath till I turn blue

As I used to when a kid and get him to get

Me out of here. To the bitter…got to see this through.”


But when he does get back, after it’s all over,

Hasn’t this Prince a job to do, blocking all info on

Unreturned POWs? Some may know too much

About him. Show their families no justice, rail at them

And scream, insult them, drive the wives to tears,

Push a grandma out of her wheelchair. Well, how dare

She question his loyalty, doubt his patriotism even?


Puts his faith in his right to the might of his fathers.

And if prisoners get dishonoured by being left to die

At least their secrets die with them. He’s got a career

To fly. There’s his hate’s volcano to be stoked.

Thin, dark and starving, kept in the caves that years

Later will boost tourism, won’t they drop off soon

Like flies?” Satellite photos show the markings


Pilots such as our Prince have been trained to use

When signalling for rescue. He will insist

The Pentagon sees nothing there but shadows

And vegetation. He will agree with the CIA

That these are saw-grass clumps, no more,

Mere rice-paddy walls. What you get in Viet Nam,

Never the desperate name of a missing man


Gouged into a field. But then, as one investigator

Puts it to the Senate. “Guys, if grass can spell out

People’s names and secret digit codes,

Then I have found a new respect for grass.”


John McCain

About anthonyhowelljournal

Poet, essayist, dancer, performance artist....
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1 Response to Shadows and Vegetation

  1. Pingback: Thoughts from the Wife of Bath | anthonyhowelljournal

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