VIETNAM WAR POETRY

  Remembrance

                        A granite slash black as onyx
                        slices across the earthen path,
                        seemingly endless,
                        names carved and chiseled into the stone,
                        58,307 - the populations of Royal Oak
                        and Dearborn Heights in Michigan,
                        of Federal Way in Washington.
                       
                        Rick is present and accounted for
                        on Panel 40e, Row 12
                        19 days from home;
                        Thereís John, Row 54 on Panel 40e,
                        a month served, recently graduated
                        from his teenage years.
                        I know them, I know the others,
                        not by name, but by kinship.

                        They gave me a medal,
                        a star of bronze suspended
                        from a red, white and blue ribbon,
                        then they took the medal back,
                        not enough to go around, they said.

                        The numbers game, again.

                        They insisted I fill out
                        a hometown news release,
                        even when I said my
                        big city newspaper wouldnít
                        give a damn about my medal.

                        And who cared about
                        the trauma embedded
                        forever in my mind
                        or the poison
                        sprayed into my cells?

                        The numbers game, again.

                        Rick and John,
                        they got medals, too
                        P as in Purple, H as in Heart,
                        PH for Posthumous,
                        No hometown news releases
                        to California -- Sun Valley for Rick,
                        Redwood City for John.

                        Didnít know John came from Redwood City
                        until I looked it up the other day,
                        found his name on a war memorial.
                        I didnít know any of that when
                        we drove into town that October day,
                        parked the car, had a coffee at Starbucks,
                        then drove away ... I wish I knew.

                        A couple of guys among the many
                        caught up in the damned numbers game.
                       
                        The numbers don't tell the stories
                        of how many more with
                        shattered minds and broken bodies
                        struggled with their aftermaths

                        Uncle Ho and Uncle Sam arm wrestled,
                        slogging through rice paddies,
                        slashing through jungle,
                        sloshing through Delta swamp
                       
                        And Uncle Ho won the struggle -
                        Hey, It's not JFK City,
                        It's not LBJ City,
                        It's not RMN City,
                        It's Ho Chi Minh City

                        Now more than 6,800 from new conflicts
                        await their monument proclaiming
                        their sacrifice to an uncertain cause,
                        heroes absent from Christmas dinner tables,
                        Chanukkah festivities, Native feast days,
                        celebrations of Our Lady.

                        Only 6,800 -- how dare I say only
                        for each is a lost treasure
                        known to me through kinship
                        and by a fatherís grieving eyes.

                        We excel at building monuments
                        to failures, convincing our conscience
                        absolution is granted.

by Contributing Poet:     Mark Fleisher   Copyright © 2016
      ( First published in   Intersections: Poems from the Crossroads by Mercury Heartlink   2016 )


  Senses of War

                        Beams of sunlight bounce
                        off this odd-shaped,
                        silver-sided carrier,
                        a calling card sent to
                        eager shooters
                        aching for heroism
                        jungle deep or hidden among
                        mountainside green

                        Naked to the world
                        this white whale,
                        configured to carry elite to war --
                        war the brass pick and choose

                        Crazy or daring,
                        foolhardy or gutsy,
                        you make the call.
                        I am aboard -- why?
                        I want to see war
                        I want to feel war
                        I want to smell war

                        Land in the Central Highlands,
                        where the killed-in-action scoreboard
                        reads "them -- a helluva lot; us -- not as many"
                        Them -- no name, slant-eyed slopes,
                        Us -- whites, blacks, browns,
                        sons, fathers, husbands, brothers,
                        "we regret to inform you ... "

                        Bulldozers push decaying remnants
                        into earthen craters carved
                        by whispering birds of prey bellowing
                        peace is our profession but for now
                        we'll bomb you to kingdom come

                        Send more bombs, bullets, rockets,
                        more bodies willing
                        and unwilling to dare death
                        for the all-holy body count
                        proves we are winning

                        I see war
                        I feel war
                        I smell war
                        I am 24-years old

by Contributing Poet:     Mark Fleisher   Copyright © 2016
      ( First published in   Intersections: Poems from the Crossroads by Mercury Heartlink   2016 )


  Can Tho

                        Vietnamese restaurant near
                       The Cleveland Park Metro
                       Washington, D.C.
                       Autumn 1986


                        Sipping corn and crab soup,
                        inhaling perfume of flavors
                        talking with the owner,
                        he came from
                        Can Tho
                        in the Mekong Delta

                        Can Tho, spring of 1968,

                        My photographer Sam and I
                        in the makeshift operating room
                        in the ramshackle hospital,
                        awed by Air Force surgeons
                        pulling away the mangled flesh
                        and shattered bone --
                        all thatís left --
                        one side of the womanís face,
                        collateral damage,
                        the cynical gift from chunks of metal
                        delivered by one army or the other,
                        only she knows -- maybe

                        The docs give her a new jaw,
                        a reconstructed cheekbone,
                        in time she will eat solid food,
                        talk to her children,
                        sing to her grandchildren,
                        and I know she will thank the docs,
                        and I know she will curse,
                        one army ... or another ... or both

by Contributing Poet:     Mark Fleisher   Copyright © 2016
      ( First published in   Intersections: Poems from the Crossroads by Mercury Heartlink   2016 )


Bio:   Mark Fleisher   served in the U.S. Air Force from April 1965 to September 1968. He was a Combat News Reporter attached to the Directorate of Information, HQ 7th Air Force in Vietnam from September 1967-September 1968. He was awarded a Bronze Star among other decorations. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from Ohio University. He now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Remembrance, Senses of War and Can Tho appeared in his book   Intersections: Poems from the Crossroads published June 2016 by Mercury Heartlink.


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