The Lines of War


Sand and bombs and ugly little
desert spiders and a rancid smell

death on the street or fear in the locals?

Sitting in the waiting room at the VA hospital
spinning the new wheelchair smells like a new car

no spiders here no locals and maybe no bombs

but we still watch with the good eye
Talking to the new wounded and comparing

wheels like high school kids.

And now, thoughts on the condition: Do we only write what we know? And is this effort poorer because of that?

Sometimes, I find it terribly absurd to think that all my memories are real, especially those dealing with the times of war. I can remember when I would put on a 50 pound ruck and move through the most dense jungle on earth, cautiously and with much labor, traveling with young men like myself, moving less than a kilometer a day in search of ways to kill other young men. Daily, we would move against this oppression of infinite hardship, killing and destroying, being killed and destroyed in turn. Endless weeks of vicious boredom marked by a minutes horrible agony. How we joked of the ways we could suffer, and loved one another with a mean affection and a deadly touch.

Soldiers and fighting men we were, all from the ancient ages of 18 to 23, except the platoon sergeant, he was old, almost 30, and the Captain only a year younger. We had seen more violent death on our walks in this country club than most cops could claim; and in the third world squalor of the villages, more disease than most doctors even imagined. We had illiterate privates who could diagnose malaria, plague, and 3 or 4 malnutrition diseases.

It comes down to whatever we could handle
All the late hours of hanging out in our own skulls
Strolling carelessly to the sounds of hidden memory
Denying whatever might cost.
Most of the books deal with coping
With being able to handle life
With belief and ability and desire.
I think in terms of energy.
Is it worth it any longer
To expend energy to achieve a lie?
Once, we celebrated Ho Chi Minh‘s birthday.

Here I am going home to my father
Over vast clouds and mountains
His voice is calling to me
Soft with the light of summer.
He used to rest outside for a little hour
On a Sunday after Mass.
He has been my granite wall
And hard fought friend
He has worked
And raised a dozen or more children.
In his rest the machines
keep breath in his tired lungs
I owe him. More then the earth.
I want him to breathe softly
To know we love him deeply and then
Like the autumn we never suspect
Fly away with the winds of summer

(The ground which forgives all our sins
And loves us dearly in the end)

Among the story of my father are the unwritten letters to Lowell, David, Joe, Patience, and all the others, they stand accusing. Sometimes there is a striving for beauty and for the pictures of the things and the emotions. Sometimes all this longing is paralyzing and the soul writes the letters but never sends the words.

1 Response to The Lines of War

  1. clartedubois says:

    The most terrible about sad and hurting memories is that
    they strike you at the most unexpected moments.
    I come from a country where battles actually took place,
    and I heard all kind of stories about war.
    But what is so strange is the way that by reading you,
    I can imagine far more the “hauntingness” of it.
    As well as the nightmares which can fall upon your dreams
    as they can be triggered by a sound no one else would feel as threatening.
    I have been reflecting quite a lot about all this those last weeks.
    And all the challenges I met in my life seem dwarved when I read your descriptions.
    And about your father, it is the first reason why I was back here.
    And… as you say even for a writer…
    The soul never sends the words.
    Mine never seems to find the right words.

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