Take Five

Take Five short poem

Source: vietnamwarera.com

Twelve thousand days ago, give or take a few
I tried counting up the seconds in a year
But the numbers got out of hand, wouldn’t stay in line
Wouldn’t act like numbers are supposed to
I kept making mistakes, checked and double
Checked my figures till my brain went numb
While the seconds multiplied into the millions
I finally gave it up resigned to the slow monotony of time
Ticking off the hours on the old wind-up wristwatch
That I wore and like everybody else just crossed out
The days with an X facing up to the fact
There was nothing I could do to speed things up
That was 12,000 days ago, give or take a few
And that’s the thing – the whole year came and went
Gone in a flash. It’s all ancient history now
But there I was pencil in hand, the point worn
To a nub, the eraser rubbed flat at the other end
Looking for the answer that would unlock
The riddle of time by simple longhand arithmetic
But what did I know? I was only 22
Had I known then what I know now
I wouldn’t have tried it. I’d have been content
With cleaning my rifle, changing my socks
And eating C-Rats morning, noon and night
I’d have given no thought to the passage of time
The meaning of life or the names of the dead lining up
In columns on gray granite walls back home
I’d have faced each day one at a time by the sweat
Of my brow in the white hot sun or the sucking
Mud and rain with the knowledge I have now
That the days and years come and go
No matter what I do, putting one foot in front
Of the other until word comes down the line
To take five and smoke ‘em if you got ‘em

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Bill Peeler

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My wife, Noy and I are Protestant missionaries in Cambodia. We met in a border refugee camp in Thailand back in 1979 while I was a refugee relief worker. She was a refugee. I lived and worked in Mairut Refugee Camp for three years. We have three grown kids. I was drafted into the Army in 1969, served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971 and honorably discharged at the end of my military obligation. Writing prose and poetry is how I document the life I'm living and how I map out the mental landscape inside my head.
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How a solider counts his time….moved me…good write!


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