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poetry Our Hamburger Hill

"Hamburger Hill," site of a notorious battle in May 1969 in Vietnam, in which American troops made daily frontal assaults on entrenched enemy positions, receiving grisly casualties and causing, for the first time, significant voices of mutiny. On the tenth day, they captured the hill. Then, since it had no military value, the troops were withdrawn. California poet Anne Cheilek succinctly captures the absurdity.

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Our Hamburger Hill
By Anne Cheilek

Not the high ground but a tempting mount
taken by frontal assault, held for a couple
of avaricious weeks more or less struck
hot off the summer tally, then left
like a delusion in the dark.
Change of management,
from stout hearts to
cool heads, or vice
versa? Too late
we tumbled
to zero
strategic
value, mounting
price. Casualties grew
partners, principles, poor
afterwit wondering why any sap
would bleed so fierce for so trifling a prize.
Lesson learned—maximum pressure scrapped,
protective reaction and troops redeployed home. Except a few
hastily buried words, illusions in arrears, worlds
half-born.

Anne Cheilek is a writer, editor, and musician living in the San Francisco Bay Area.