Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vietnam and Iraq

It's hard to be aware of what people come here for. For the narrative? For a poem? I've looked at traffic and I can't figure it out. I don't blog in response to traffic but I wonder if I have a steady readership that skips the narrative for a poem or vice-versa. I should think more come here for the narrative as few delight in poetry. I don't write for poets either. I write for the discipline of writing. If I practice no other writing today, at the least I can blog.

I don't think therefore that curiosity is over and experiments no longer in vogue. So here's my experiment, begun at 9 PM August 30. I'm going to post what I think is a very good poem and also timely in view of the morass in Iraq. With three hours left tonight, only 16 have graced this site today. Let's see what happens, shall we?

I'll report tomorrow.

At 2 kilorats,



At the Vietnam War Memorial

Black granite stretches its harsh, tapering wings
up to pedestrian-level grass
but sucks me down, here, at the intersection of names.
I forgive, I must, though I wish something
could heal this wound in the earth.

Behold, all theorists, the price of theory:
extreme unction by napalm and blood,
vets shipped home whole or in pieces:
The VA grants prostheses
but not minds free of horror.

In jungles tumescent, through villages
of straw, by the Mekong where catfish
sleep in mud-heaven, we tramped,
disarming mines and flushing tunnels,
killing women and children
for potential collaboration,
smoking Thai-stick until stuporous—
still, the sound of Charlie
played on every frond.

Beat against this polished rock, America,
this vast projective surface for your sins,
wear your bloody heart out.
It's not how many died
but that they died in vain, achieving
nothing except our grief for them.

It's said you cannot write a good poem
until recollected in tranquility.
Let this then be a bad poem, bad as the war,
dividing author from reader and reader from page.
Let it drive a wedge between fathers and sons.
Let fathers mistake rebellion for disloyalty,
let sons mistake honor for stupidity,
let senators mistake appropriation for commitment,
let mothers confuse waste with sacrifice,
let sisters turn to prostitution to forget.

Let teachers suicide in public in partial recompense,
let preachers castrate themselves for passive assent,
let everything in America that breathes
hang its head in irrefragable shame.
Here is the legacy of your assumptions,
here the necropolis of your dark-suited wisdom:
A city set in a pit cannot be hid.

OK, the experiment begins now. We'll check again in 24 hours.


  1. I come for the poetry, stay for the narrative. Or is it the other way around? At any rate you're an interesting guy and I rarely count a visit here wasted.

  2. Anonymous4:32 AM PDT

    It's an excellent poem CE. I remember it quite clearly as I do your Lincoln Memorial poem from as I recall the same pilgrimmage to DC.

    Frankly, I tire of Vietnam and all the boomer suffering that only a generation of self-absorptionists could continue to manufacture so ceaselessly. They should have done a better job of forgetting themselves and thrown themselves into getting their dads' Korean War Memorial installed in a more respectable timeframe.

    But then, self-forgetting is a herculean chore for a generation that can see nothing but itself. We suffer their myopia again today as they serve as our gray-haired wise men, prosecutors of another debacle another world away.

    take care

  3. Thanks, Jarod, and do send me your successes in your ongoing poetic career.

    Norm, Norm, "boomer suffering?" The whole nation suffered and continues to suffer the aftermath. As you know, the comparisons to Iraq are unavoidable. But what is worse is that Bush and Co. learned nothing from Vietnam. They continued the imperial notion of Pax Americana. And as if Vietnam weren't enough, the Middle East has been a tar baby forever, just like the Balkans. At least we had more success in the Balkans-- then we had real allies in that "peacekeeping action."

    If Saddam was a "monster," he was much less one than our ally in WWII, Stalin, or the king of North Korea. Then there's always France, but who wants to conquer a bunch of whining Frogs? ;-)

    And if you're 45, don't you qualify as a boomer? A '61 birthdate should still qualify, I think. Though I admit it's no distinction. In my experience as a doctor I proclaimed our generation the worst parents in history.

  4. Powerful closing stanza. Thanks for posting it. Good luck with the experiment.

  5. "Let this then be a bad poem, bad as the war,
    dividing author from reader and reader from page."

    Love how this poem turns into something "bad" here, and accepts it, much like we must accept the atrocity of that war, and our current quagmire.

  6. "beat against this polished rock, America"
    "wear your bloody heart out"

    God, I wish we would rage like that. Instead, I think, we use that memorial the way painters used to look into an obsidian mirror - to soothe and rest their eyes, only, in our case, we are rested but don't necessarily see the colors anew.

    What a great poem. I have to admit I come here for the poetry, and then end up reading the narrative to find out who the person is that writes such powerful stuff.

    I'm looking forward to more followup about your experiment.

  7. Hi Crrraig, I read your blogs as often as I can because you are simply one of the best writers I know. I think you even write about boring things like depression and weight gain, two of my favorite topics. I especially enjoyed your most recent stream-of-consciousness writing about what depression feels like. Keep it up!

  8. Anonymous6:08 AM PDT

    This is the first time I've seen this blog so I can't really say what I will continue to read for. I found this because I read "At the Vietnam War Memorial" on a poetry sight and chose to use it for my AP English class...So I guess I'm here for the poetry but more so to find out about the poet himself.

  9. Thanks for your comment, glad you liked the poem. I apologize that my blog degenerated from poetry more to my personal demon of depression, which probably put you off. If I start posting again, I'll try to make it more about poetry.



    1. Anonymous4:04 PM PDT

      You shouldn't apologize for being yourself on your own blog. I'm going to minor in psychology so to be honest, the posts about yourself and your "demon of depression" just make your poetry better. It gives the reader a new perspective and a better way to understand the little things in the poem that most overlook. So no matter what you post, you have my interest.


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