“That night in Venice, George and his death became a symbol to me—and still remain a symbol. Somehow or other we have to make these dead acceptable, we have to atone for them, we have to appease them. How, I don’t quite know. … Atonement—how can we atone? How can we atone for the lost millions and millions of years of life, how atone for those lakes and seas of blood? Something is unfulfilled, and that is poisoning us. It is poisoning me, at any rate, though I have agonized over it, as I now agonize over poor George, for whose death no other human being has agonized. What can we do? Headstones and wreaths and memorials and speeches and the Cenotaph—no, no; it has got to be something in us. Somehow we must atone to the dead—the dead, the murdered, violently dead … The reproach is not from them, but in ourselves. Most of us don’t know it, but it is there, and poisons us. It is the poison that makes us heartless and hopeless and lifeless. … ”
Death of a Hero. Richard Aldington.
Penguin Classics. 1929/2013. p22
PTSD: A Blood orchid from American-made dystopian mud
War, No. 1
On good days—Straight from the reprobate
On bad days—Screed, screed: I cut, you bleed
War and Anti-war Poems
A sweep of knives and questions
America, the United States thereof
Can a poem be a war?
Desensitization using A. Ginsberg’s ‘American Sentence’
Going to sleep
How much reality can I take?
I died in Vietnam
I sing a song that will get me killed
I want to write love poems
Just another one of the dead
Killing for god and country is murder—always
Let’s say … I assassinated him
Lifer in the war against war
Lucidity: A prose poem
Manifesto howled in the surditorium
Not Cherokee enough to read broken jungle
Pearls, pierced and dark with bitter gold
Secular stupas of stupidity
Shrinking senior senator
Sitting zazen at Auschwitz-Birkenau
Somewhere in the A Shau
The unvarnished truth is all the puzzle I want
The weight on my heart
War, No. 2
War, No. 3
We built a wall for 58,195
Enough for now
Zen of No-War
Meditating in a combat zone
Enso, No. 1-3
My American war was long ago.
Still, Moloch’s embers flare daily—lightning bolts
striking my grey-haired head, tearing once more my three eyes:
No one told me war wounds eternal.
Tell your kids,
tell your neighbors.
Whitman sang a song of himself, self-publishing grassy leaves and setting the world aflame.
Emerson was an elite word-player, looking for meaning without getting muddy.
Hawthorne wrote political lies for Jimmy Polk’s imperial invasion of Mexico.
Thoreau, at least, was jailed for not paying taxes. (His mother paid them the very next day!)
Me? I’m a happy reprobate—bowing humbly to the old Latinate: ‘one who reproves’—
carping with hot consternation at those who, with blind and blinkered eyes, trail after evil’s
easy, please-y morsels, spending more at Starbucks daily than many elsewhere have for food.
I’ve no pretensions—I’m not a Whitman, an Emerson, or a Thoreau;
I’m certainly not an old Nate Hawthorne. I’m a tired grunt Marine from
the American war in Vietnam, lugging my frayed bulging rucksack over hither and yon,
planting anti-war apple seeds deep in the dirt called America.
I hate that I went to war for you. It ruined my life.
After more than 40 years of wandering the American wilderness …
I’ve reached these sad conclusions, my friend:
I was willing to physically give up my life for you.
I was naïve and full of teenage hubris.
Now I know … You don’t deserve my sacrifice.
Every adult around me encouraged me in my delusion,
or, if they had doubts, did not counsel me from my moral certainty.
You were willing and complicit that I should throw my life away.
Now I know … You don’t deserve the sacrifice of others.
You are unconscionably ignorant of the military history of your own country,
of its lies and deceits, of its wars of racist atrocities,
its strivings for empires to bloat the rich and the bigoted.
Now I know … You don’t deserve those who have fought for you.
Your myth of exceptionalism—we ‘Americans’ are sine qua non
on the face of the earth—is nothing but night dirt,
built upon the hard fact of flagrantly schooled self-deception.
Now I know … You don’t deserve those who have done your killing.
You are immorally ignorant of how your soldiers step arrogantly
onto foreign soil. You train them to disdain everything indigenous,
killing first and asking/answering questions only if forced.
Now I know … You don’t deserve those who have died for you.
I rue this country.
I rue this culture.
Don’t you dare be surprised by my anger.
“This brutality … was a war crime, plain and simple; a war crime witnessed by American officers. A U.S. serviceman standing by while an ally tortures a prisoner is itself an offense punishable under both customary law of war and U.S. military law contained in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But in the U.S. (military) units in South Vietnam, such acts were not unusual. Generals would deny it, colonels and majors may doubt it, but any captain or lieutenant and any enlisted infantryman who was there will confirm it.”
Son Thang: An American War Crime. Solis, 1997, pps. 13-14.
Something inside me shattered hard that night. I was 18.
We had walked south all day, stepping with worn and weary boots
through the A Shau Valley: Vietnam, 1969.
About midmorning, I step wide, over a discarded, nationless skull.
We find him later: a North-Viet soldier, near-death and left behind.
We carry him, littered, into the glowering, lowering sun.
Later—my hands dirty, my nails broken, my body stinking—I sit on the edge
of my hole and watch them stick him beside a bare open grave.
They—Americans and their Vietnamese scouts—sweep sharp
questions and sharp knives across his ebbing body.
Too far away to hear anything spoken—
I watch wide-eyed as Americans torture and murder.
On quiet nights I still feel my heart breaking apart. I am 63.
On July 4th, anger typhoons in me while others party with god, glory, and their gilded beer.
I slam shut my eyes, mentally kicking away the cheesy flags, hating the mindless gala
of making merry death and mutilation, loathing the drunken bop with the legions dead:
carnival supplants the dark dead weight we should be touching.
Always, at moments of strength, I am tempted to buy a dozen gross
of Uncle Samuel’s damn banners and burn them daily, one-by-bloody-one,
on every courthouse lawn—Maine to California, Alaska to Florida—
as though that would matter.
Sometimes I can just turn a corner and see you, America, standing smack
in front of me—a collective dumb-fuck Baby Huey: big, damn, necrotic cartoon
of our national myth of Clorox-bleached faux-white goodness, the ‘city on a hill,’
now an malevolent mob of living in hillbilly McMansions, reeking of cum
and scat and piss and pus.
Forty years after Vietnam, I wake with my hands, squeezing and hating and squeezing. I gasp for breath. Then the rage dissipates and leaves behind flummoxed, groveling ghosts, roiling sandy and red-faced on storm-churned mental beaches.
I’ve stopped cars on urban streets, raging. I’ve raged at television, newspapers, republicans, roadcrews, and little round kids in well-marked crosswalks. Rage turns me to blue-necked Shiva astride a 1,000-year storm; a mustard-seed of frustration, a pebble-caused stumble, slams me to hurricane detonation; kin of stifled sex, its trillion watts more evilly frenzied.
When I catch my breath, what remains—always breathing— is the rage: rage ejaculating out the tips of my throttling fingers into another person, rage snapping gladly out of control, rage irrational, venting rage, purgative-high-pressure-steam-rage, rage steam-rolling, rage raging unconscious. Rage the Destroyer.
It was decades ago, in one of the 48 contiguous states. I had blacked out. I come to with my hands around her neck, squeezing and hating and squeezing. I realize I am about to kill her. A blue-hue irradiates her face. I slacken my hands. I say nothing and leave. I never see her again. I return weeks later and move out. It was long after Vietnam.