Lost Youth
Poetry by Lachlan Irvine


Has anybody seen my youth?
I know I had it back in '67;
Nineteen-year-old virgin soldier, all innocent fun
And clumsy efforts to lose innocence.

I think it was still with me in early '68,
Shakedown ops and TAOR patrols were still a game;
So I guess I must have lost it during Tet,
Perhaps It slipped away quietly, first time I lost a mate.

I know I didn't have it in the Long Hais,
That was no place for innocence, no place for youth;
It couldn't have survived at Coral, and since Balmoral
Memory gets hazy, so I can't be sure.

I started mising it when I came home,
Still only twenty, while many of my old friends
Were celebrating their coming of age;
But something was wrong - they were only kids,
So they still had theirs - I must have lost mine;
Somehow I knew it was time to move on.

Now, many years have passed, a lot of miles
Travelled on this old grunt's tired feet,
I know there's no point looking, it's gone for good;
But something strange has happened along the way;
While searching for lost youth, I found my manhood;

None of my generation who stayed at home
Will ever find theirs as surely as I found mine.

Lachlan Irvine

(Notes: "Shakedown operations and TAOR patrols" were tasks given to infantry units early in their tour of duty, to help them get acclimatised; "Tet" refers to the Tet Offensive of February 1968; "The Long Hais", "Coral" and "Balmoral" were the scenes of major battles in 1968; "grunt" is a slang term for an infantry soldier).

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