In Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of GI Boots on the Ground* by Gerard Sarnat

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
—George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense

Quarter century later, Saigoners fled conquering Cong.

For the price of one ounce of gold
and the readiness to eat dead shipmates,
half of the South China Sea boat people
—thirty monks included—
                                                                         made it to land.

After which a man named Alexander,
Captain of a U.S. warship, was court-martialed
and convicted of dereliction of duty,
what civilian lawyers deem depraved indifference,
for boarding the leaky vessel,
resupplying with thimbles of water,
a handful of tins of other meat and a map
                                                                         then abandoning

the junk
already      drifting
just short of a
Santayana month.

*After Philip Gourevitch’s 4 May 2015 New Yorker Talk of the Town
piece on current West African refugees drowning in the Mediterranean

Gerard Sarnat MD received his education at Harvard and Stanford. He established and staffed clinics for the disenfranchised, has been a CEO of healthcare organizations, and was a Stanford professor. He is the author of three critically acclaimed collections: HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man (2010), Disputes (2012), and 17s (2014) in which each poem, stanza or line has 17 syllables.Gerard has been featured this year as Songs of Eretz Poetry Review’s Poet of the Week with one of his poems appearing daily. Dr. Sarnat is the second poet ever to be so honored. For Huffington Post reviews, reading dates including Stanford, publications and more, visit


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