There's a bar girl on Trung Hung Do who has half a ten-piaster
note I tore in my drunken relief to be leaving the country. She has
half and I have half, if I can find it. If I lost it, it wasn't on purpose,
it's all I have to remember her. She has a wet sheet, a PX fan,
PX radio, and half a ten-piaster note, as if she cared to remember
me. She thought it was stupid to tear money and when I handed
it to her she turned to another soldier, new in country, who needed
a girl. I hope I burn in hell.
Copyright 1988 by Bruce Weigl
Reproduced with kind permission
I think that this is a very interesting poem. In it, the author is saying that he needed something to connect him to Viet Nam when he left. If he didn't have half of a ten piaster note, Viet Nam would not have been real, and all of the horror would have been an illusion. He would be crazy for thinking all of those things if they weren't real, if he couldn't ensure that there were real by connecting himself to Viet Nam through that ten piaster note.
The second half of the third line is worthy of a special note. Weigl says, "If I lost it, it wasn't on purpose . . . " When does anyone truly lose something on purpose? If you lose something on purpose, you would almost certainly know where it was "lost", and thus it wouldn't be lost at all. Why does he feel that it is necessary to mention that he didn't lose the ten piaster note on purpose? Since the ten piaster note is more or less a substitute for being in Viet Nam perhaps he is saying that if he ever forgets Viet Nam, it won't be because he tried to.
The very last sentence is also worthy of special attention. For me, largely because it confuses me. I cannot figure out why the author hopes that he burns in hell. To what is he referring to? Does he hope that he burns in hell for tearing the note? For sleeping with a bar girl? For needing Viet Nam to be real? The last of those is most appealing to me, but that's just me . . . .
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