The Enemy
The Sun settled slowly,
After a long and costly fight,
And I with the rest of the men who survived,
Pulled back and dug in for the night.
In front of us in an open field,
Lay those we could not save,
Their mangled bodies stiff and cold,
Their lives for freedom gave.
I sat alone on listening post,
But nothing could I see,
Yet across the field at another post,
I knew one sat like me.
I wondered if by chance he too,
Were trying not to cry,
Remembering all the friends he’d lost,
Asking why they had to die.
Suddenly my feelings changed,
No hatred could I find,
How strange that this my enemy,
Would have feeling just like mine.
I wanted then to meet him,
But would he understand,
If I stood in peace before him,
And offered him my hand?
With a rifle shot, the answer came,
And I knew it could not be,
For that young man across the field,
He was my enemy.
And so I put away my thoughts,
And forgot about my friend,
For I knew tomorrow we’d probably meet,
And for one it would be the end.

We did meet the following day and although I do not know if it was his… a hand grenade exploded just a few feet in front of me, sending shrapnel through the air, a piece of which shattered my glasses… causing me to loss vision in one eye. I wrote this poem a few months later, while recovering from those wounds at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. It is not one of my better poems but it does express well what I was feeling at that time in my life. A lot has changed since then… and yet, only recently, have I realized the significance of what I wrote back in 1968.

It did not take me long back then, to go from pro-American to anti-establishment Hippie. I exchanged my gun for a Bible, went from Republican to Democrat, left the work force to become a volunteer, and realized that there were alternatives to being straight. I considered myself to be a much better person… more loving, more open, and much more intelligent than any pro-American, straight, gun carrying, workaholic, Republican, and up until recently, delighted in defending my position with anyone who dared challenge me.

Perhaps I have just grown tired of the challenges… or maybe it is, that in my old age, I have finally come to the Understanding, that to become friends with your enemies, you must to be willing to step away from the playing fields and not take sides with those who choose to continue playing the games.

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  1. thank you, wayne, this is from mujin’s friend `jeff. We are following your life story thru your blogs on the last day of 2016. We started with Branh Chhang and now we are at your poem. Best wishes for 2017.

  2. Wayne Dale Matthysse

    Thanks Jeff… I appreciate the acknowledgement and interest in my blog. Give my regards to Mujin and should you have any questions I would be happy to discuss them with you. I may not have the answers but through sharing perhaps we could learn a few things from each other.

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