My Left Knee

327 Infantry Veterans

327th Infantry

My Left Knee

by Ken “Doc” Nance
Medic with A Company from November ’68 to November ’69

I remember when I wore the blood of a dead man, Dixon, like a badge.

He wasn’t the first dead I’d seen, but I wore his blood like a badge –

Dead man’s blood – there, on my left knee.

I wasn’t one month in the war, but I’d seen four dead men before,

Carried them in fact, a colonel and a pilot, a crew chief and a door gunner,

Carried them behind the protective coils of concertina into the battalion aid

station at Firebase Hickory to be tagged for Graves Registration.

And I thought, is this my job? Carrying dead people?

And they were heavy – dead weight – and I thought I was important because I

was carrying dead men.

No one else wanted even to look, but we medics unceremoniously heaved the

shot-down chopper dead from the helicopter – rotor washing, anxious to

unload and leave with speed.

Dixon’s blood was different, though – it was a badge.

I didn’t want to change my pants – ever.

I remember the ant crawling out of his mouth by the time I got to him…

his head wound fatal.

But I’d cradled his head in my lap and looked for his life… It was gone –

already flown through the triple canopy of the jungle’s green mansions.

And I never thought ‘till years later that I’d been in someone’s rifle sights,

The same sights at the same spot Dixon was killed – in a little dry gully

southwest of Hill 604 – And his blood was a badge.

What foolish, arrogant pride to think of blood, a dead man’s blood, as a badge

-Dixon’s gift to America, his family’s loss forever – a badge on my left knee.

What was so important about Dixon’s now dead blood?

There was a mystic quality to the mystery of life that stirred in the trouser of

my left knee – in Dixon’s blood.

It was at once holy protection, a charm, a mojo,

– stronger than the John the Conqueroo.

But it was still a proud, stupid badge. A dead man’s blood.

Dixon’s blood was a memory, a shock, an awakening, a forced suppression of

violent pain, of an immeasurably short temporality –

Yet I wore it like a badge – a blotted splotch like a spiritual birthmark.

Who was I to wear a dead man’s blood, Dixon’s blood,

like a badge on my left knee?

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