Issue 17


Memorial Day 1997

based on the drawing for "Viet Nam" by Erin Higgins

Table of Contents

full or partial text is available for highlighted items



Illustrations by Erin Higgins and Vicky Perry


(Updated August 18, 1997)

©Copyright 1997 Echoes Magazine

All stories, poems, and drawings are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form, by copying or by any electronic or mechanical means, without written permission from Echoes Magazine. Individual stories and poems are also copyright by their authors; drawings are copyright by Echoes Magazine and by the artists.


Viet Nam

by Paul I. Alfaro

In the jungle of Viet Nam
I sit among the foliage
I smell its earthy breath
and I see the beauty of the trees.

Just below where I sit,
a river flows,
as it has forever.
The banks are filled with camelias
and multi-colored flowers.

I see the fish swim happily
eating bugs and dragon flies
and very near a snake moves lazily
through the water.

The monkeys sing in harmony
as they play from tree to tree.
In the brush
the dog deer bark
and yap at one another.
In the distance
a blue throat lizard cries
as he cusses to all the others.

I sit and admire the beauty
of this war torn land
and I wonder.
Will it still be here
once the bombing stops,
the killings end,

and I am just a memory
long forgotten from this land?

cover illustration by Erin Higgins

© copyright

Paul I. Alfaro is forty-nine and works as a quality manager in Los Angeles. He spent six years in the Army, including several years in Vietnam, and was awarded the Silver Star and many other medals and commendations. He is an active member of the Military Forum on Compuserve and has contributed many poems about Vietnam and military service to the libraries there. (4/97)

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by Jerry H. Jenkins

God of Hate, foremost of all the gods,
the seeds of all your suns are hurtling down.
Volcanic flowers erupt from falling pods;
their molten pollen showers all around.

They come on hot winds out of midnight skies.
Birth and growth and death for them are one.
Their sudden brilliant blossoms realize
the incandescent passion of the sun.

Foundations of the world shift underfoot;
nightmare rainbows burn into our sight.
The God of Order grovels on his gut,
and fright and hatred fill the goblin night.

In these fields of metal, mud, and pain,
in quaking soil, our minutes seem as hours,
praying to whatever gods remain,
the human harvest of your fiery flowers.

© copyright

Jerry H. Jenkins began writing poetry in 1993. Since then his poems have appeared in various magazines throughout the U.S. and abroad. He has won contests sponsored by Poetic Eloquence, The Devil's Millhopper Press, and the World Order of Narrative and Formalist Poets. Jerry graduated with highest distinction from the U.S. Naval War College and holds degrees in psychology from the University of Texas and in computer science from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Jerry retired from the Marine corps with the rank of colonel and now serves as Assistant Vice-Provost for Information Technology at George Mason University. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia with his wife, Gretchen. (4/97)

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by Dale Cramer


Following is a brief excerpt from the story:

It was Weiss who finally crept from the rack, clutching a filthy scrap of blanket about him. His swollen feet shuffled to the end of the hut. With great effort he knelt down and crawled beneath the window. Ever so slowly, he raised his eyes above the sill.

"They are leaving," he said. "All of them."

He said nothing else. It would have made no difference -- madness lay in all directions. He remained there far too long, watching. With his ghostly face so long exposed in the sweeping headlights, we half expected his head to explode.

Some of us listened for a while, trading precious sleep for news, for understanding. We heard voices, hushed yet shrill, like people fleeing before a storm. We heard the stiff-kneed, race-walking steps of men caught in the open ground between fear and pride, tossing bags of clothes and letters onto trucks, the warm things they could not bear to leave behind, and tossing themselves in last. Truck doors banged like empty oil drums. We heard the engines groan, the grinding of gears, the crunch of tires on gravel and snow, fading into the night. We listened for more, but there was nothing. We listened so hard we thought we could hear the snow falling. We listened so hard the effort drove us back to sleep.

Daylight found us all awake again, and nervous. Where were they? Why did the siren not sound? Was it a hoax, a trap to be sprung by some laughing sadist with a machine gun?

"Bindel, you must go." Feldman, as always, was the first to have a plan.

. . .


© copyright

Dale Cramer is a forty-three year old electrician who just started writing eighteen months ago "after an argument with a friend turned into a published article." This well traveled "army brat" is an avid reader of Steinbeck who currently spends his time at home, writing, building and fixing things, and taking care of his two boys while his "wife brings home the bacon." He says that "Freedom" began as an exercise in the Compuserve Writer's Forum, and that this group has helped him develop as a writer. (4/97)

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Night Attack

by Gene Moser


Following is a brief excerpt from the story:

Three American soldiers and a nurse sat on the sandbagged bunker that housed the company operations center. They wore jungle fatigue pants and O.D. T-shirts, and a can of beer stood next to each. As the sun set, they looked over the barbed wire and bare dirt stretching towards the nearby rice paddies, from which rose the odor of raw sewage.

As the last light faded, Lieutenant Elaine Boydon wished for the cooling evening breeze back at the evac hospital on the coast. She took a swig of cold beer, chilled by the extra ice left behind when the malfunctioning Huey had to off-load cargo -- and her -- in order to make Chu Lai with the other nurses and the whole blood. El could still see the duffel bags lying on the bare earth of the fire base's helipad.

"You beginning to wonder about volunteering to stay behind? Or maybe you want to be a hero?" the major from battalion asked.

"No, sir. I just want to do my job and get through this tour. I have a place to sleep, and they'll send a chopper for me in the morning."

Just two days before, El had written her husband Phil, an artillery lieutenant in Korea, stressing to him how safe she was in the middle of a major compound right on the South China Sea. Now here she was on a fire base with an artillery battery, most of two infantry companies, and part of an infantry battalion headquarters. She really didn't want him to know about this snafu.

Beyond the concertina she heard a faint sound of metal on metal and then four low "thunks." The youngest officer looked at his watch and smiled. "Bedtime Charlie is right on time," he said. El wondered what he was talking about, but the others didn't volunteer anything. Then, off to her right, were four explosions, the bright flashes briefly silhouetting the bunkers and the perimeter wire. Two howitzers fired in response, and the sharp reports echoed in her ears; El watched as the smoke from the howitzers drifted slowly back towards the four on top of the bunker. The others each took a swig of beer and El looked down at her can to hide her face. They grinned and she realized that she must have just passed a test. "Bedtime Charlie -- he misses us, we miss him," the lieutenant said to El. She grinned in response, but she still didn't understand.

Then she heard a strange sound, almost like paper being ripped. "Incoming!" the major yelled and pushed El down onto the sand bags . . . .


Night Attack
illustration by Erin Higgins


© copyright

Gene Moser is fifty-three and has returned to creative writing after retiring after twenty-six years (active, reserve, and National Guard) as an Army field artillery officer. He teaches tenth grade English in Hampton, Virginia and is a fiction editor for EWG Presents, an on-line literary magazine. Gene is married, has two adult children, and an assortment of dogs and cats. In his spare time Gene does photography and enjoys both model railroading and finding steam locomotives, preferably operating ones.   (4/97)

[Table of Contents]


by Ray Catina

I wasn't kidding
I wasn't kidding
when I wrote home
that I might
never eat rice

that every
time I see a bowl
of white hot grains
steaming in a

I see a
bloated body
floating face down
in a Vietnamese
rice paddy

© copyright

Ray Catina currently hangs his helmet in Schenectady, New York &emdash; on those occasions when he is said to be anywhere in particular at all. While we all like to think of ourselves as ageless and for all times, Ray admits to being almost fifty and has "no special plans for the next millennium &emdash; the last one was confusing enough for one lifetime." His only hope is for an end to war, and to honor those who fought so that others might live in peace. (4/97)

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Pow Wow Testimony

by Dancing Bear

In afternoon dust a man spoke melodiously
about how he had been a proud warrior
fighting for his country
as his father and grandfather had.
He spoke of firefights,
killing everything in the jungle,
those he watched dying,
chopper attacks and falling out of the sky,
falling from grace,
bullets that hit and missed
as his blood made red mud on the ground,
holding his medicine bag and charms
crying for the Creator,
praying to die at Home
where the earth is a friend and he had meaning,
not there, where he was another set of tags in a jungle.
Even the air was still,
copper faces circling this man,
feeling his pain,
and crying at the granting of a prayer.

© copyright

Dancing Bear is a Native American who has lived in the San Francisco Bay area for twenty years. He based "Pow Wow Testimony" on his father's experiences in the Marine Corps. Dancing Bear works as an editor and poetry reviewer and is an active participant in local poetry groups and events; his work has appeared in Slipstream, Visions International, and many others. Dancing Bear also practices Shotokan Karate and competes in local tournaments. (4/97)

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Plateau Lands

by H. Lee Barnes


Following is a brief excerpt from the story:

Glenn sits up on the edge of the chaise, closes his book and rubs his eyes. He's not sure what awakened him. Perhaps the sudden drop in temperature; perhaps the thunder, or an elusive dream. He watches lighting march in columns from the west and breathes in the air, pungent but fresh.

An insistent ring filters through. He hurries inside to grab the telephone. He says hello, but there's no answer. He starts to drop the receiver, but a voice says, "Kaiser Roll?"

"Mel?" Glenn's voice goes dry. He sees Mel as he last saw him, the prosthesis leaning against a chair, Mel rolling a sock off to rub his stub, pink and violet and granulated. Glenn remembers a recent news brief, Mel on the small screen limping to a podium, ready to deliver a speech.

"We've got to talk. You, me, Dodrey, Mullen. Went through some heavy things, didn't we?" Mel says.


"Remember Dickerson?"

Glenn pictures Dickerson, a young soldier, sitting on a boulder, arms folded over his chest. He imagines Lt. Steinbrenner telling Dickerson to take the point and this time he does, no argument.

"Guess he never got it together when he came back. A street person in New Orleans, imagine," Mel adds. "Got cancer. He's dying. Made wild statements about 'Nam. The ramblings of a homeless black man gone sanctimonious." . . . .

© copyright

H. Lee Barnes teaches English and creative writing at the Community College of Southern Nevada. As a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, he served in the Dominican Republic in 1995 and Vietnam in 1966. Vietnam provided the setting for "Plateau Lands." This story is the fifth of his stories related to Vietnam to be published. "Hero of the Gap," won the 1991 Arizona Authors Association fiction award and "A Lovely Day in the A Shau Valley," won the 1996 Clackamas Literary Review fiction award. (4/97)

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We Have

by Steve O'Brien

Have you sat on a hill watching the napalm explode,
or smelled the dead bodies at the side of the road?

Have you looked down your sights at a child of six,
or an old Mama San with her bundle of sticks?

Have you felt your heart stop as you stepped on a mine,
or helped a young Marine who will always be blind?

Have you walked all day long in the rice paddy mud,
or stood in the rain to wash off the blood?

Have you had to listen as people called you names,
or looked at the children all broken and maimed?

We Have.

© copyright

Steve O'Brien, forty-seven, is an industrial trainer at the Aluminum Company of America. He is married with three children. Steve served as a hospital corpsman in the Navy for four years. In 1970 he volunteered to serve in Vietnam and was assigned to a combined action platoon that lived with with the local people in a village near Hoi An; Steve earned two purple hearts and had to spend five months in a hospital in New York. His poems reflect his feelings and experiences, and he says that he writes to help him cope with and understand his experiences. (4/97)

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A Letter to Beirut

by Jacqueline Jules


Following is a brief excerpt from the story:

Dear Paul,

The news called it the Marine Massacre. "Two hundred and forty one dead in Beirut." They kept showing the picture of the bombed building on the television. When I close my eyes, I see the black smoke and hear the reporter saying, "Two thousand pounds of explosives in the truck bomb." Then I see the body bags stacked in rows.

I hate to admit how hopeless the sight of those body bags made me feel -- how I saw your handsome face, cold and silent the way my father's face looked in his casket. You know it's always been easy for me to imagine the worst. Remember when I was pregnant with Ricky how I worried about all the things that could go wrong? You asked how I could be happy being pregnant if all I saw in my head was a deformed or sick baby? . . . .

Letter to Beirut
illustration by Erin Higgins

© copyright

Jacqueline Jules is a forty-year-old author, poet, and school librarian, has had works published in over fifty publications, including America, Cappers, Cosmopolitan, Woman's World, and Arthritis Today. Her novel for young readers, The Grey Striped Shirt, was published in January 1995. This Virginia resident grew up around military personnel and was deeply affected by the 1983 terrorist bombing of the US Marine base in Beirut. (4/97)

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