VIETNAM WAR POETRY

  Hand Outstretched

                        Living in Russia not knowing Russian I study Russian
                        my fellow students are Vietnamese
                        who study hard, learn the Russian grammar and syntax
                        but have trouble pronouncing Russian
                        I have trouble understanding their Russian
                        Russians have trouble understanding their Russian
                        as we all have trouble understanding Vietnamese
                        one American in a class of Vietnamese.
                        One day one of the Vietnamese approaches me
                        a stocky man in his 40’s with a hard mouth.
                        He speaks in a halting English–Russian
                        the words struggling in his larynx
                        willed to emerge
                        the words misshapen, their sense clear.
                        He asks to shake my hand
                        he has no hate for me, he tells me
                        he lost 4 brothers in the war
                        4 brothers fighting America
                        he has no hate for me
                        and he wants to shake my hand.
                        I shake his hand
                        but do not tell him
                        I did not fight in that war
                        that I opposed that war
                        that I avoided that war.
                        Our common language cannot say that much.
                        That is the past.
                        That is not relevant that in that small room
                        This Vietnamese man who had suffered in the war
                        suffered fighting against America
                        bears me—an American a former enemy—no hatred
                        and wants to shake my hand.
                        I take his hand with humility
                        and relief that I am not damned
                        with the sins of war.

by Contributing Poet:     Peter D. Goodwin   Copyright © 2015
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  It’s The P B I

                        The P B I
                        the P B I
                        the Poor Bloody Infantryman
                        that’s what the Americans don’t understand
                        the old man intoned
                        it all comes down to the P B I
                        The P B I.
                        The Poor Bloody Infantryman.
                       
                        He had never talked of war before
                        never used strong language
                        Bloody!
                        We were sitting together, in his study
                        he is leaning forward
                        his tin leg stretched out.

                        When his nation called, my Grandfather followed
                        fought in France until a German shell took his leg
                        and for the rest of his life he walked with a limp
                        dragging a heavy metal leg
                        attached to his body with a heavy harness
                        and now he was telling me how the Americans
                        should be fighting their war in Vietnam
                        with men and courage
                        it’s a hard slog and it all rests
                        with the P B I,
                        The Poor Bloody Infantryman
                        not long distance bombing raids
                        for once the bombs stop
                        it's the B P I that does the job.
                        The Poor Bloody Infantryman.

                        He was a war hero (I suppose)
                        a strong man with a strong moral compass
                        a compass so strong so straight
                        he was an antique.

                        I did not want to discuss war
                        not his war
                        nor the war I was dodging
                        and I did not want to explain
                        to a man who had fought for two years
                        and only returned when maimed
                        why I was avoiding war.
                        I did not ask him about his war
                        nor did I ask him how he was wounded
                        where he was wounded, instead
                        I told him I had to go
                        I had things to do.

                        I never saw him again.

                        Now I know nothing about his war.
                        His wounds.
                        His life.

by Contributing Poet:     Peter D. Goodwin   Copyright © 2015
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


  A Family Tradition, Abandoned

                        A young man, ready
                        to embrace the future
                        heard the call of duty
                        went to war
                        and was killed.

                        His sister named her first born
                        after her dead brother, who
                        a generation later
                        heard the call of duty
                        went to war and was killed.

                        His sister named her first born
                        after her dead brother, who
                        a generation later
                        heard the call of duty
                        but did not go to war

                        and so lives to write this poem.

by Contributing Poet:     Peter D. Goodwin   Copyright © 2015
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


Bio:   Peter D. Goodwin   divides his time between the streets and vibrant clutter of New York City and the remnants of the natural world along Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, discovering in the dislocation of environments and cultures the creative edge where words rekindle their spark. Poems published in the anthologies: September eleven; Maryland Voices; Listening to The Water: The Susquehanna Water Anthology; Alternatives To Surrender; Wild Things–Domestic and Otherwise; This Path; From The Porch Swing; The Coming Storm as well as in various journals including Rattle, Memoir(and),River Poets Journal, Delaware Poetry Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Twisted Tongue, Poetry Monthly, Main Street Rag, LockRaven Review, Sliver of Stone,Greensilk Review.


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