VIETNAM WAR POETRY

  If I Were Young Again   (V3)

                                Piecemeal summer dies:
                                long winter spreads its blanket again.
                                For ten years I have cabin, shoulders
                                jostled up against open Alberta sky.

                        If I were young again, I'd sing of coolness of high
                        mountain snow flowers, sprinkle of night glow-blue meadows;
                        I would dream and stretch slim fingers into distant nowhere,
                        yawn slowly over endless prairie miles.

                        The grassland is where in summer silence grows;
                        in evening eagles spread their wings
                        dripping feathers like warm honey.

                        If I were young again, I'd eat pine cones, food of birds,
                        share meals with wild wolves;
                        I'd have as much dessert as I wanted,
                        reach out into blue sky, lick the clouds off my fingertips.

                        But I'm not young anymore and my thoughts tormented
                        are raw, overworked, sharpened with misery
                        from torture of war and childhood.
                        For ten years now I've lived locked in this unstable cabin,

                                inside rush of summer winds,
                                outside air beaten dim with snow.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 1985   R. 2012
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  Wing Tipped and Resisting

                        It made sense to watch him grow;
                        the foolish things he did to girls,
                        the endless hours he filled their
                        bedrooms with delight-I swear
                        he was an Indiana boy.
                       
                        He was a whisper of dreams and words.

                        The pines of Alberta fanned his brain,
                        intensity increased the blaze of conviction.

                        The voices of many personalities formed
                        in his larynx over the early Indiana years.

                        Names abused, ideas festered, beliefs crippled,
                        false images gathered in a garden of imagination merged with sand,
                        sprouted, bred, and spread northward, outward, like eagle wings.

                        It was a cancer without a cure or antibiotic.

                        The wind had stopped prayer when he
                        was born; he had felt his own creation lift
                        within his own breath.

                        More than new desires, old desires,
                        or World War II memories chatting in
                        the past, this boy was a proclamation
                        of potential rejected by his peers, soundly.

                        But then a war, the Vietnam curse,
                        a conflict that ripped the internals of a nation,
                        guts wide open, bleeding ulcers, opinions flourished,
                        past and future dreams buckled.
                        Then men died, thousands of men died.

                        Blue north wind now blows icicles through his hair;
                        he works against the wings of the red, white and blue eagle;
                        while blood torn stars blend in his green eyes,
                        the border of two dissonant countries divide.

                        Another night passes to sleep in exile.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 1981
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  Clock on the Wall is a Crooked Clock   (V2)

                        Clock on the wall is a crooked clock.
                        Soon the sun will cease being a light bulb for the world.
                        Transistor technology draws its last drop of energy-
                        tin cup beggars, quarter hounds, technology jumps
                        into silver solar power.
                        A speechless shadow transcends earth, blankets
                        with meditation, mumble scribbling with a black felt pen?
                        everything is in present tense.
                        We're all prophets of silence.
                        We’re all a Jesus , sorted winds,
                        sprinkling vocabulary across the seas.
                        A new crop of creatures toss in a shaker new world.
                        The world now is a cylinder tossing out joy.
                        All is quiet, a new religious order forms from our groins.
                        We're all handicap stickers now, impacted
                        with the swelling of new songs, burning testicles,
                        naked napalm Vietnamese children,
                        waiting for the end, the politically created war.
                        Dance into the night with silver slippers,
                        dance into drench tunnels.
                        This poem is a late poem,
                        clock on the wall is its own diagnostic ear.
                        We're all a crop of creatures, undisguised, naked in foliage.
                        President Nixon and Johnson graze at the bottom of my urinal.
                        War is a diagnosis to its own ending.
                        The wall is cracking, it's own atomic bomb ticking.
                        Soon the sun will cease being a light bulb for the world.
                        Clock on the wall is a crooked clock-
                        and love is my literary genie.
                        Soon, you my children an image lost
                        in the face of the sun.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 1976   R. 2012
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  Skinny Indiana Boy   (V2)
(Poem in Exile, Vietnam War)

                        With a heart once as big as Texas
                        or Alberta where he came from,
                        the draft resister tries to erase
                        the memory of his sordid past;
                        coming out of the Rockies,
                        down over the slate, out of self-imposed exile,
                        he leaves the north land shaking
                        his bandaged fists at the prairie sky.
                        He was robbed of his own conviction
                        by a war that ended, others forgot,
                        there was nothing left to die for, to wait for,
                        no more signs to carry in the dark -
                        only the chill of the northern winter left
                        to remind him of what he once felt,
                        once talked about.
                        The night looked long in his deep green eyes
                        robbing his faint life away.
                        The scream of loneliness has turned
                        his innards inside out to pity.
                        Non-religious accept for those
                        weakened moments, empty nights,
                        vacant lots, he leaves behind light-less
                        ten years of those silent wars
                        without refuge.
                        He no longer speaks with bullets bleeding
                        from his mouth; he no longer searches
                        the quiet whispers that echo in the pines.
                        Now he is at home near the land of Indiana lakes
                        where in his childhood he created the vision
                        for his now dead dream, content to say nothing
                        radical anymore-just glad to be alive.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 1981
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  Conformity Owns No Estate   (V2)
(Pre-Exile Poem-Vietnam)

                        I love adventure to toil with my mind,
                        the search of self, the bottle-necked life,
                        rolls violently on the shores.

                        Conformity rules the lives of men,
                        a dressed up world of dreams,
                        refusing to move from salt-soaked sands
                        to grasslands on higher plains.

                        People before me tread on the sands
                        sharing the beaches of numbers,
                        never forging forth to the front,
                        remaining content building castles
                        in sand.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 1969   R. 2012
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  Crossing the Border Divide

                        Crossing that Canadian line on a visitor pass,
                        that stretch across the border divide,
                        that makes a torn war wound, torn man free.
                        It made my feet new away from red cinder land on fresh grass.
                        Back home the sirens of war keep sounding off,
                        like common masturbation from one decade to another.
                        All us wearing new/old bloodstains,
                        poetry images of erections coming up, WW2, a real war.
                       
My dirty hands, on your hands, our memories shared red, white & blue justified, hell.
                       
Who does not have memories, bad cinder charcoal smoke screen in the dark flame?
                        September comes early in Canada-October in the USA.
                        Leaves fall early swirling in touchdowns both sides of the border.
                        September north, but at least the bullets cease.
                        Cast a poem South, you likely die in Vietnam or come back wounded.
                        Cast a poem North, you likely suffers mental illness but come back on pills.
                        Here comes again, thunder, in the rain, stroke by lightening,
                        war bore crossing a border divide.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 2014
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  When Will These Vietnam War Poems End?
(I am too Old for War Past and Present Tense)

                        I am too old for war.
                        I am on a road with worn out jeans,
                        cowboy hats, boots, leather vests, nothing more left of Alberta.
                        I was young, skinny, thought I was bright.
                        Green, I was strong, Indiana oak trees.
                        I was 6'4, tall giraffe available
                        draft minus one and heading Canadian North.
                        I certainly had piety in my green eyes.
                        My counselor was anxiety and fear.
                        Detroit guns, riots, 1967, pistol on my car seat.
                        Police were on the backside of my license plates.
                        When will these war, poems end?
                        Forty-three years out back to the past
                        revival forward, carry lead shield.
                        Elders, children, and friends,
                        make judgments to this day.
                        Do not get fancy with words.
                        Warrior is/was a sinner, a history maker.
                        Sleep peaceful in dust of history.
                        Mystify confidence, cleverness in my eyes.
                        We are now warriors of old age, wrinkles.
                        Never less let rules of age, engage, and conquer.
                        Everyone is a short stubbed sentence
                        like Ernest Hemingway,
                        choose your weapon, draw.
                        Politics is a long-term whore
                        fortunate some died:
                        Nixon, Johnson.
                        Where do the corpses lie, where did the corpses
                        die, war is time, grass, dust cover, all.
                        I am 67, too old for wars, spirited words, and anticipation.
                        Years of thought become a foreign disease.
                        Life pools itself on a new generation of warriors.
                        Hear the sounds of cricket's sounds of doves.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 2014
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  Arctic Chill North

                        Arctic chill froze my life into exile.
                        North Saskatchewan River crystallize frozen thick.
                        My life entombed 10 years, prairie path thorns,
                        a hundred threats US government, border checks run further north.
                        I stand still in exile, lived my life in mixture of color,
                        tangerine moon, hangnail in the corner of my bachelor suite for years.
                        I close down curtain on this chapter with an amnesty agreement, a pledge.
                        I close down this sun space, northern lights,
                        files I never burned draft card I never tossed way.
                        Thieves, dawn passion, pack, go home tonight.
                        This hell over my head passed now a hallo, child, dream, murder.
                        Let the flicker between notes and years die ignore spaces.
                        Radio sounds in my car ears on the way back home, Indiana, 1,728 miles.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 2014
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  Young and Resisting  (V3)
(Pre-Exile Vietnam War)

                        Eyes of anguish, heart of pain,
                        my homeland I despair.
                        My dreams I see before my eyes
                        a cabin in Northern lands;
                        snow bounded passages with mounting drifts
                        where lonely hearts meet, exiled,
                        sequestered, gathered.
                        I twist my shapes, confused, alone;
                        isolation is the mode of life,
                        no paths to plow but my own.
                        My eyes see universality of hidden truths,
                        here lodge the changeless values.
                        Fringe, frigid, grief within the breeze
                        left to reckon with despondency
                        of winters gone by;
                        mysteriously riddle,
                        drain brain-tease
                        with patriotism yet
                        reclusive calm,
                        I'm stashed away.
                        This wilderness avant-garde,
                        here now, alone, breathing?
                        I'm now a Canadian in this Northern land.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 1969   R. 2012
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  Exile Turns Inward the Years

                        I isolate myself
                        four log cabin walls, brown tarnish turns black.
                        Northern lights grow dim hoard knowledge.
                        Eyes are two-glass windows fog frozen winters over years.
                        Blinds are pulled down tight, creates anxiety; cancels the growth of roots.
                        My vision outside my window is a circle size Canadian quarter,
                        chills thoughts of the future.
                        Inside fever generates heat; microwave warms my coffee and cream.
                        Exile turns inward the years.

by Contributing Poet:     Michael Lee Johnson   Copyright © 2014
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


Bio:   Michael Lee Johnson   lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era: now known as the Illinois poet, from Itasca, IL. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, photographer who experiments with poetography (blending poetry with photography), and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois, who has been published in more than 875 small press magazines in 27 countries, he edits 9 poetry sites. Michael is the author of The Lost American: "From Exile to Freedom", several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises and Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems. He also has over 71 poetry videos on YouTube.
PoetryMan.mysite.com/


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