Poetry: Hello, Tom.

All that I can recall
about Tom Steele,
is that he was tall, blondish hair,
quiet, and we never spoke.
We were both CHS
class of 1964, graduates.

His panel is 6E, line 104.
Tom was Army, C Company,
Second Battalion, 16th Infantry,
First Infantry Division. A grunt.
A boots-on-the-ground warrior.

At the Battle of Xa Can My,
April 11th, 1966, Tom was killed,
along with 36 fellow American soldiers,
age 20, not old enough to drink,
but young enough to die.

And I – must remember the boy
to whom I never spoke because
Memorial Day is all about him,
and them, for me to Remember.


Look both ways;
into the past to remember, into the future for something better.
Mind the gaps but try to treat folks with love and respect.
Say it. Care. You never know.

Poetry: Thanks, Mom (MIL, Grandma)

I came across this, so I tweaked it a bit for Mother’s Day. At the time, I didn’t agree with Mom about my decision. But I now realize that she was probably right.


Combatant

It could have been me.
A nod, a blink, or an “okay”
and the next forty-five
years …

(Had I not been killed, maimed,
or driven insane,
as so many young men were.)

… would not have been anything
like the memories I have today,
fifty-seven long years hence,
with contrition, feeling a strange
impersonal loss mired in guilt.

Personal, hidden, illogical
survivor syndrome. I can’t
make sense of it. The feelings
of a warrior, but who wasn’t.

Life choices are often made
thoughtlessly, in a blink.
I could be dead. Change the past?
Not on your life. Or mine.

And Mom would have been
so pissed at me, Jack M.,
and the entire fucking Corps.

Thanks, Mom.


Look both ways at guilt for life:
fortune or folly.
Mind the gaps in the mindless wars with reality.

Poetry: How did it feel? (NaPoWriMo day 23)

This morning, NaPo challenged me to write a poem that responds to another poet’s poem. I chose one titled “Natural History” by Leroy V. Quintana, one of five of his Viet Nam poems featured on PBS. But I could have responded to any, or all, of the five.


How did it feel?
To know you must go to Nam, to maybe die,
or go to jail, or to Canada?
To go there to kill any enemy, VC, NVA, or…?
To be overcome by fear, and to be forced
To kill anything that moved?
You’ve felt such fear I’ve never felt.
Not just some fight or flight twinge,
but big, sweaty, trembling, shit-your-pants fear,
both rational and sometimes crazy,
a fear that never goes away,
fear mixed with phenomenal anger,
when everything slows down, or stops,
where all you see, hear, feel,
smell, or taste wants to kill you, to maim you?
To suck the blood from your body?
And you can only live by killing him first,
or by not fighting, or shooting into the darkness,
or not, for fear of being exposed, or by tossing
grenades, or by friendly artillery fire so near you,
it may kill you? And most of all, how did it feel
to leave your comrades behind, to fly home
to clean clothes, a steak dinner, and
a thankless nation ignoring you,
wishing we’d all just go away? Trying to forget?


Look both ways along the path of a warrior,
that person sacrificed for the good of some system
like Capitalism, Communism, or Catholicism.
Mind the gaps for the fears and tears of real people,
both the living and the dead.

Poetry: War’s Bitterness (NaPoWriMo day 6)

The irony of today’s prompt is that it comes from Holly Lyn Walrath, who wrote of prompts, “…they all suck.” She poses this one as simple.

“Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.”

I want to finish this assignment today, so I am amending the prompt slightly.

I have lists of lines (quotes) from books I like. Examples I considered from Bukowski’s poetry book, Love is Dog from Hell, (also the title of one of the poems) include:

  1. “Sissies have a hard life.”
  2. “I never quite understood what it all meant and still don’t.”
  3. “Human relationships aren’t durable.”
  4. “Just drink more beer, more and more beer.”
  5. “An early taste of death is not necessarily a bad thing.”
  6. “Hit that thing/hit it hard.”

I rejected them for a sentence from Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried. The protagonist is referring to his decision to be drafted and go to Viet Nam, rather than flee to Canada.

“I would go to the war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to.”

I used each of these three independent clauses as the title for a quatrain. Then, I wrote the overall title of the combined poem, but I left the original lines.


War’s Bitterness

I would go to the war*—

Not to defend my country
or the Constitution, or our freedom,
or our way of life, to a war
I did not believe in.

I would kill and maybe die*—

Even my own countrymen would
condemn me and others who did
see themselves as defenders, many heroes
who would be wasted in a war they hated.

I was embarrassed not to*—

I cried. I didn’t want to go. I felt
that I had no choice. Could I kill?
Would I be killed or maimed?
Would I ever understand why?


(*Taken from the boat scene while fishing on the Rainy River in the book, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.)

Look both ways. Feel the pressure. Decide.
Mind the gaps, especially those in your mind.
You’re only a living, fallible human.

Friday Fictioneers 10-2-2020

Thanks again to cat-herder extraordinaire, Rochelle @ Rochelle Wisoff-Fields-Addicted to Purple for providing another Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. Her weekly challenge is for us to write a story (beginning, middle, and end) of 100 words or less based on a photo prompt. Thanks to Rowena Curtin for the photo.

PHOTO PROMPT © Rowena Curtin

 


Genre: Fiction
Title: Xin Loi Gonzo
Word Count: 100

***

The sun was behind him, half blinding me. Gonzo insisted on knowing why I asked to meet him so early.

He swore and moved aggressively toward me. I backed-up and said, “Some make the world a better place, some we would better off without, and some make no difference.

When he charged me, I drew the pistol, repeatedly squeezing the trigger before I could point it. He knocked me down but did not move after we were on the ground. I stood, shot him in the head, and said, “I just made the world a better place. Xin lỗi, Gonzo.”

***

Look both ways when making room and don’t bring a knife to gun fight.
Mind the gaps and keep the sun at your back.


Click for link.

Xin lỗi is Vietnamese for ‘sorry’ or in my case, ‘sorry about that.’

Poetry: Sammi’s Weekender #175 (megalith)

 


Megalithic monuments to our past.
Cold stone can’t heal broken hearts,
replace shattered dreams, give life
to memories of the dead.

When will truth
replace our human greed, when
will we ever learn? We see and hear
what we want
with blind eyes and deaf ears.

Why even ask?


Look both ways for life.
Mind gaps in memories, lest we lose what we have.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial with the Washington Monument Washington, D.C.

Poetry: Another Morning


Awakened hours before sunrise,
he must guard, lest they come and kill;
this boy filled with fear and shock,
barely 19, taught to hate and kill,
now loyal to his clan, this new family,
his only friends, his only protection
as war has become his real world.

Miserable, hardened in every way,
unsympathetic, unimaginably deadly,
drawn to flashing light, learning
what he never wanted to know, addicted
to the battle, to the intoxicating fight.

He celebrates life with death, seeks random
revenge where none is possible,
has forgotten questions, never asks why,
lives in his personal accepted hated hell.

Sunrise lifts despair from his soul.
He smiles, alone, at the light of life,
happy to survive one more night.
He looks for answers, for that part of him,
now dead because he kills without a care.
Can he ever again be who he was born to be?


Look both ways to find another view.
Mind the gaps where questions decay away.

 

Poetry: dVerse Open Link Night #270 (my first)

Thanks to Mish and the folks at dVerse ~ Poets Pub, for Open Link Night #270 (click for link). This poem messes with where my head’s been lately.

***


Combatant

It could have been me.
A nod, a blink, an okay
and the next forty-five
years …

had I not been killed, maimed
or driven insane
(as many of us were)

… would not have been anything
like what I look back to today,
fifty-six long years hence,
with contrition, feeling the loss;

Personal, hidden, illogical
survivor syndrome. I can’t
make sense of it. The feeling
of a warrior who wasn’t.

Life choices often made
thoughtlessly, in a blink.
I could be dead. Change the past?
Not on your life or mine.


***

Look both ways at guilt for life: fortune or folly.
Mind the gaps in the mindless wars with reality.