Dear Belle ,

I got hold of a dried sunflower. Its in danger of falling apart now, but until I get another one, I take it to every new billet and stick it up over the bed, so its the first thing I see when I wake. A lot of the men think a soldier with a flower is pretty weird, or even against the war. I have this big, scary commando knife with the groove in the blade for the blood to run out. I put the flower up and I point the knife at it, then around the room: "This flower is my girl. You fuck with it, you fuck with me." After that, they mostly leave me alone.

I'm sorry to call you my girl when you are not and can never be, but I have to speak in a language that the guys will understand, and if I described what we really are to each other they would think I'm a fag or something.

You wrote to me that I shouldn't love you, that it is wrong and a waste of my life when there is some other girl waiting to bloom if I loved her. Those were very beautiful words. I must have read them a hundred times. I kept them as I keep all your letters. I wish you would put just a drop of your perfume on them before you post them. It would mean so much to me.

How can it be wrong for me to love you if I don't want anything bad to come out of it? I am not after you in any way to harm my brother. I would have no problem going to Charlie and explaining how I feel. I think he would understand. I think he even knows. Charlie will see there is no harm in it.

I want it to be just like the loves they had in the time of King Arthur, when a knight would dedicate his life to a lady in all chastity. I don't think I really even care about the other thing. That's just plumbing. I want to live in the light, above all that machinery. I think that's where you already live. You wrote to me that you're not a saint, that you're an ordinary woman, that you can be selfish and thoughtless too. I don't believe you. I think that you are simply the best person I ever met, and that's why I feel this way about you.

You asked me not to write these words, but I can't help it: I love you. Every time I write or think that, something in me gives a bit, surrenders to you. It started out a tiny pebble: there was that little of me that was the best part. I love you. Every time I say it I add some more to the best part of me. It has become a huge boulder and if I keep working I can make it a hill. Maybe someday I can become a tall mountain in this world, for love of you. If God wills. I love you.

You hurt me the most when you wrote that you didn't want to think that I am fighting for you in Vietnam. I don't mean that you did something wrong. If that is what you feel, you were right to tell me. But a knight must have a quest. If this is not mine, if it is not for you, then you must tell me what to do. If you say I should stay here, I will. If you told me to run away, or to become a conscientious objector, I would obey you. I want you to guide me. I am your thing. I love you.

I have been looking for God: in the streets, in the morning light, in the hills and in the bush. Sometimes I have dark moments. In one of these I thought I had found Him in the smell of gasoline. I won't say any more about that.

Every morning I say a prayer for you and then for myself. Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our deaths. That is the one I say for myself. I made up the one I say for you. I will write it down and send it in another letter.

Please don't be angry at me. Forgive me for anything I have said or done which displeased you. You are the sun to me. I love you as I love the sun.