Xin  Loi

​( "Sorry  About  That !" )

Author on leave in Vung Tau - July 1966

     Xin loi in Vietnamese (pronounced ‘zin loy’) means ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘my apologies’. The term became popular between locals and the westerners during the Vietnam War (especially with the bargirls and soldiers on leave) and usually was extended to the expression ... ‘xin loi about that!’ It was a friendly jibe meant to infer that in fact the apology (for perhaps some minor slight or lapse in etiquette) was not really genuine ... more of a ‘tongue in cheek’ apology. It was usually expressed with a degree of friendly humour intended. This poem is a light-hearted look at this once common expression.  

                                                               “It's not that I'm afraid to die.
                                                 I just don't want to be there when it happens!”
                                                                                                                                       - Woody Allen.

                         “When I die, bury me face down … so the whole world can kiss my ass!”
                                                         -.... or....   “Xin loi about that!”
                   ..... or ....    “When I’m dead and in my grave … no more pussy will I crave!”
                                   -   common engravings on ‘Zippo’ cigarette lighters by Anon. G.I.’s in Vietnam, 1966.

Xin  Loi

( "Sorry  About  that !" )

​As I was standing at his desk,
Confident and calm;
He handed me some papers,
Three stripes upon his arm.
So I asked this ‘Sarge’ politely:
“Just what does this all mean,
Now I’ve passed my check-up,
And this course through which I’ve been?”

He smiled up at me,
Then held out his right hand,
Saying: “Congratulations son,
You’re off to Vi-et-nam!”
I replied: “But I don’t wanna go, ‘Sarge’,
I love Austral-i-a;
Don’t wanna tread on punji stakes,
Or catch bloody malar-i-a!” 

“And in that stinking humid place,
There’s a shortage of cold beer;
It’s either too damn flamin’ hot,
Or ‘friggin’ rainin’ so I hear.
Don’t wanna be caught up,
In those bloody firefights;
As for flyin’ up in ‘choppers’,
I’m terrified of heights!” 

He snarled: “Xin loi, you’re an Uc-dai-loi!
You’re off to Nui Dat!
So ‘di di mau’, right now!
Sorry about that!”

*  * 

At Tan Son Nhut, the airport,
’Twas hot, though not ‘The Wet’,
And this F.N.G. had landed,
At the start of bloody Tet.
From the Reinforcement Unit,
Better known as A.R.U.,
I was slotted with these strangers,
Not one bastard whom I knew. 

My new corporal there informed me,
A smarty smirk upon his face:
“My forward scout, he’s just been killed,
So you can take his place!”
So there I was, on patrol,
When not in base camp lines,
Looking out for Viet Cong,
Booby traps and bloody mines. 

On a guard duty, one night,
Alert I tried to keep;
Then suddenly, I was ‘gonkin’ off ’,
Sound a-bloody-sleep.
On a charge, by my new ‘Sarge’,
Fronted up to my O.C.;
What could I say, so loss of pay,
And 14 days C.B. 

I thought: “Xin loi, Ol’ Boy!
I’ll shoot through from Nui Dat!
And ‘di di mau’ to Vung Tau!
Sorry about that!”

*  *  * 

In ‘Vungers’ town, all around,
Many stalls and funny shops;
A place to hide, dark inside,
I was running from the ‘cops’.
I strolled into a bar,
I was in my ‘civvy’ clothes;
I had one thing on my mind,
That every soldier knows. 

Looking all around,

There were offers of all kinds;
Stuck upon the walls there hung,
All these funny signs.
A price for just a haircut,
And another for a shave;
Prices for any bargirl,
And special ‘favours’ that she gave. 

A mama san then asked me:
“Hello ‘G.I. John’!
Tell me what I do for you,
And where you coming from?”
I said: “I think I’ll have a beer!”
So an ice-cold can I sank;
“And by the bloody friggin’ way,
I’m not a bloody Yank!” 

“I’m an Uc-dai-loi, xin loi !
Down from Nui Dat!
I ‘di di mau’ to Vung Tau!
Sorry about that!” 

*  *  *  

A pretty little bar girl,
Came and sat upon my knee,
And after making small talk,
Asked: “You buy me Saigon Tea?”
I replied: “O.K., I’ll pay,
Though then I gotta run!”
She said: “But I wuv you!
I think you Number One!” 

She cuddled up, on my lap,
And whispered in my ear:
“If you wanna pay for me,
We go my place outta here!”
I knew this scam, no fool I am,
So said: “Now look here Honey!
I’m an Uc-dai-loi from Woy Woy,
Who’s got no bloody money!” 

“I no believe, you me deceive!
Hey! Maybe you ‘cherry boy’?
If you no pay me my ten dollar,
You be pretty soon xin loi!”
Though I tried in vain, to her explain,
She sooled M.P.s upon my trail;
They’d called the roll, I was AWOL,
And now I’m back here stuck in gaol. 

She’d said: “Xin loi, Uc-dai-loi !
‘Cheap Charlie’ go back to Nui Dat!
You ‘di di mau’, from me now!
Sorry about that!”