What I Lost in the War

Terry Hertzler
Horizontal photo of two symmetrical pane windows with the glass broken out.
Photo by Matt Artz

Small things: pocketknife with three blades, 
a good knife, although I’d broken one of the blades.  

Cassette of the second Blood, Sweat & Tears 
album, purchased on R&R in Sydney—almost 
worn out anyway, so not a great loss, and 
I could hear “Sometimes in Winter” in my head 
anytime I wanted.  

Socks. A poncho liner. Packet of pre-rolled joints 
I bought from a mama-san on a road near Phu Bai,
but I think they were stolen by Stephenson, that 
pothead, so they probably don’t count. 

Larger things: 35mm camera purchased through 
the PX. Bought another camera, but ten years later 
lost all the photos I’d taken in Vietnam when my office 
burned during a summer fire that swept down 
the San Bernardino hills, a brief, hot exhalation 
that left the building next door untouched but took 
my office to the ground, transformed wood, glass, 
floors, typewriters, and all those sentences created 
on typewriters into piles of ash and debris.  

Lost friends, of course, and abstract things: faith, 
certitude, the future. The Army sent me home after 
13 months, 10 days before I turned 21, but they 
wouldn’t release my discharge papers till I turned in 
my field jacket—wouldn’t even let me keep the damn 
jacket—couple of weeks before Christmas, 1970.

Terry Hertzler has worked as a writer, editor, and teacher for more than thirty years. His poetry and short stories have appeared in The Writer, North American Review, Margie, Literal Latté, Nimrod, and Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology. He has published numerous chapbooks as well as two books of poetry and short fiction: The Way of the Snake and Second Skin. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.