The ditch looks different in twilight,
when colors pale, and shadows grow
That’s when the poppies turn
to blood and branches mimic bones.
He remembers the brown of mud on her
white cotton dress, and how much
her open eyes resembled mirrors.
It turned silent afterwards, before
the choppers came and brought him
back to safety and mother’s apple-pie.
Wheat fields are his home again;
he tills the soil beneath the sun
but every dusk he’s back in My Lai
knowing well that part of him remains
among the bodies ditched
that faithless day.
Poetry for Kerry at toads, a great image from the past inspired me after having watched the documentary about the Vietnam War. I will also link up to Poetry Pantry tomorrow.
March 3, 2018
It always …amazes me when people tryto imagine that horrible war and ptsd. I was one of those who watched that war play out day after bloody day, who had friends and relatives who fought there and didn’t return or returned totally changed, who had friends who fled to Canada or was one of the protesters against it. But I was also one of those who saw that war ending and then watched as POWs were returned, forever scarred. As much as I fought against it, I fought even more for these veterans to get their rights and health care. A good childhood friend of mine went, fought, and returned. The last thing he said to me, if you weren’t there, you cannot imagine the horror. Two weeks later, he killed himself by blowing a ho!e in his head. I never write about this war because I was not tbere. I only know what I read in the papers or saw in the news. It still makes me angry to this day. And that my friend killed himself because of it.
Looking at the PBS documentary gave me an insight i have never had before… I truly recommend it… so many were interviewed and so many tragic stories. I think you should write about it, trying to understand is one of the best ways to make sure it never happens again.
“That’s when the poppies turn
to blood and branches mimic bones.”
and “It turned silent afterwards, before
the choppers came and brought him
back to safety and mother’s apple-pie.”
Sorry I have copy and pasting poems — could have done more… but suffice it to say you captured it! Just lovey and heart-rendering.
This a poetic slant to a novel I would very like like to read.. (if you’re the author:) )…..scary and haunting!
Restoration after war sometimes can be bad, bad. Seems your fellow recovered quite well. Nice poem, especially portraying the hell he was in until rescued.
I think the reference of My Lai was also the hell that happened to civilians, and the guilt that would drive you mad afterwards
What a great poem refering to the trauma that participants in war feel and carry with them always. Beautifully written.
This really took my breath away. The emotive weight is so well balanced and you captured the stories of two lives in your brief format. I think it is very well done.
This is so incredibly evocative, Bjorn! You have captured well the trauma that follows war.. especially this; “That’s when the poppies turn
to blood and branches mimic bones”.. left me absolutely speechless!
Wow Bjorn.. I was in Vietnam in January and there are reminders of the war everywhere..such horror…your poem is classic.
I actually remember your poem written from a place very close to Son My
I visited the My Son ruins .. there is evidence of intense carpet bombing. Imagine that – history going back to the 2nd century almost entirely flattened.
Such vivid imagery – stark and yet skilfully handled
Such feeling and imagery. The long lasting and invasive effects of trauma come across so well, so beautifully told.
War is a bloodguilt, perhaps always in some ways, but most strikingly when its fought for money and other irrational reasons– a curse of the mind to those who were caught in it and escaped with their lives while the innocent died, so well expressed in all its heavy darkness here.
War is a terrible theatre Björn, whether we be willing or unwilling actors on its stage, or its hapless audience.
The stark imagery of your words reminded me of the long forgotten (to me) insult of the My Lai massacre. How ?quickly ?easily we return to our primitive selves in battle… And sadly, we still do, and no doubt always will.
Your write is beautiful in its awful truth.
Very poignant and sad poem, Bjorn. I think anyone who had been there must have left a part of them there as well. What a shameful past really.
Perhaps this is one of the sadest poems every written.
Your words today cut true and quick….I grew up during that war, and it has shaped me, influenced me and haunted me as does your poem as it brings it all back. I agree with annell, this is one of the saddest poems ever written or I have ever read….but that war was such a waste.
Eerie is the word… There is a vividness in the details, a mock calm after the horror, which puts me in places I don’t wish to revisi
I mean, “revisit”…
I love “that’s when the poppies turn to blood and branches mimic bones”. Amazing visuals in this poem, and haunted twilights with memories of My Lai. A vivid poem, Bjorn, so well done.
Sadly, the after effects stay forever…
Always in war some people remain, but no one wins
Thanks for a very stirring write Bjorn
Wow. This took such an unexpected turn. Marvelous work, Bjorn.
Such a powerful poem! I remember the My Lai massacre very well – not from having been there, of course, but from the furore afterwards, all over our screens and newspapers when it came to light. The horror! When I was in America, I found that many people did not realise Australian troops were involved too, in support of the US. (“All the way with LBJ” was the slogan of Prime Minister Harold Holt.) Conscription was reintroduced (by Holt’s predecessor Robert Menzies) just before our involvement in the war was announced – obviously no coincidence. Some young men I knew went to prison as draft resisters; some managed to evade capture, but we didn’t have a Canada to escape to. Like Toni, I did everything I could to oppose this war, and our (Australia’s) involvement in it. As did many others. And then, in this country too, we saw the terrible aftermath – returning fighters scarred physically and emotionally, many from exposure to Agent Orange among other things. Those who did return, that is. I will never forget all that and more. In just a few well-crafted lines and well-chosen, even beautiful words, you convey the horror, the anguish, the guilt, the way these experiences can never be eradicated…. I think the tone is perfectly judged. The word “faithless” is perfect too – and profound, quietly nailing the crux of it all. A small masterpiece!
I can say little after all that’s already been said. I lived during the time of the war. My husband was drafted and I feared for his death. I knew others who did die. My husband didn’t go to Viet Nam though. He was sent on an isolated tour. When he returned, it took years for him to recover from the isolation but also from the grief of knowing some of his friends had perished.
Your poem hits tender spots. That’s what poetry is supposed to do and you mastered it wonderfully.
This is written from the unique perspective of the tangled and, sometimes, tortuous impressions that memories can unleash (particularly memories of traumatic experiences) and it is done so well. You’ve articulated a clarity here, that is perceptive and, I think, true. Regardless of the backstory – intense memories may come to us in a jumble of emotion – but, it seems to me, there is always one clear, true thing that you will always know.
in just a short poem, you have put across the horror and trauma of a wartime massacre so powerfully. perhaps this is one of the incidents that helped end the war earlier.
Many of the younger ones may not know of My Lai. It was a tragedy difficult yo forget. You did very well to bring it back to the fore, Bjorn!
Stark and well crafted. I particularly liked the beginning lines. Nothing is overdone or trips into melodrama.
You have captured the tragedy in that day so eloquently Bjorn! So many wonderful lines, I can only imagine the haunting that would have on someone to experience the horror of war.