Greg McBride


Greg arrived in Vietnam in January 1969 as a second lieutenant and assumed  duties as chief of the Army’s medical photography team.  His job was to document (photographically) everything the U.S. Army was doing medically in Vietnam.  He took medical photographs in the wetlands of the Mekong Delta, in Special Forces’ camps near Cambodia, in the highlands, up and down the coast, near the DMZ, in medevac choppers, and field hospitals.  After Greg’s return from overseas, he studied to become as lawyer. He resides in Montgomery County, Maryland with his wife Lois. Greg’s poem  “The Operating Room” was published in the Potomac Review, Winter 2001, and “Tu Do Street” was published in Off the Record: An Anthology of Poetry by Lawyers, 2004. 


The Operating Room


A chopper pounds the baking air,

muffled fading, as the mess-hall

evening siren sounds.  A green-suit

bustle spills urgent, down

the wooden sidewalk bridging

mud and puddles to the O.R.,

where the photographer locks

his tripod legs in place,

inserts a fresh magazine,

zooms in:


Like a half-eaten pomegranate

left for sniffing dogs,

 the boy lies open in Da Nang,

five surgical teams scratching

at his flesh, harsh lights tracing

paths the shrapnel took when

his boot landed on the mine.


Blood spatters the lens, gushes

over gloved hands incising, sawing,

full-stroked through grown limbs,

the labored heaving laid raw

beneath what’s left of still-pink skin,

a one-limb body without privates or a face.


The photographer, safe

behind his camera, murmurs at

the crimson saturation, the perfection

of his angle, as he leans high over

an obliging surgeon’s shoulder—

nearly breaches the sterile field

sliding his 16-millimeter Arriflex

from the thoracic to the maxillo-facial

grazing the meticulous debride.


The limb-site surgeons grow testy.

At last, a slowing slap of stainless

instruments against open palms

signals the waning night, fewer

fluids to be hung and replaced.

Still there beats a heart

they wont let quit.


Final suture sewn.

instruments and camera stowed,

the boy wheeled away,

the slumping, the heavy,

bloodshot, drag on to breakfast,

gritting their teeth against

the unmouthed hope

he’ll die. 



Tu Do Street


The bar hunkered down on Tu Do Street, left

of the Rex Hotel, its door a dark deep cleft

from which 60’s protest songs pricked lonely nights

beneath the black-sky drone.  Like blinking kites

the C-130’s hung, still parked in time,

as if they knew this war would play like dime

store novels—secret plans, high level talks,

French onion soup, the bombers bombing docks.

She drifts, pink gauze through light—her tea, our sighs—

the heat, the want, the brush of her ao dai.





By the Pacific, a ribbon of sand,

visiting Auntie June.  Arizona,

a scrubby mountain out back, rolling

the hills in round crates we pack, unpack,

repack.  Columbia Gorge and falls nearby;

in the dirt, shooting marbles till dusk. 

Cattle lumber the long Texas roads. 

Shooting snakes, shearing sheep,

collecting horned toads.  Chesapeake Bay and

National Bo, “Land of Pleasant Living.”

Flying the fins of Dad’s red Plymouth Fury

to Friday night games in Langhorne with Kim.



Back from the boonies,

mud-caked, parched.

Charlie got our new Captain.


Check the calendar—

April girl purrs

on a palm tree.


Slowly draw a big X

through 18.  Only 300 days till

I’m back in the world.


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