Vietnam War poetry.

No words are adequate, yet something must be said.

If you’re wondering about the meaning of this headline, just think for a moment of all the things Vietnam veterans have had to deal with over the years. Somewhere in your head you have a list of grievances and various memories of happiness and sadness related to the Vietnam War. Even those veterans who had happy homecomings, and had no immediately obvious problems, felt the pain. It’s the kind of pain that mostly stays inside, and it’s a pain that many people cannot imagine. Feelings that words cannot express…but we are grateful that some continue to try.

It might come as a surprise to some, but we get more positive letters about the things we publish on our poetry pages than almost anything else in the entire magazine.

Click below to read all the poems and thoughts from issues of our magazine.

 

Poems and more: 2017
A few sample lines: “said join the Navy – fly jet fighters / be a hero, passed the tests / ready to sign on dotted line.”

Poems and more: 2016
A few sample lines: “the rich brown bark peeled from trunks once deflowered from Agent Orange’s secret visits” ::::::::: “They couldn’t remove the shrapnel, too close to the spine. You see the way my body’s shaking?” ::::::::: “But unlike the dirt in the skin of those I have put in body bags, it is not to be seen.” ::::::::: “I see your name among the 60,000. My fingers slow…slow across the etched black granite.” ::::::::: “His purple heart, that irrepressible grin, encased in a steel lockbox somewhere, interred too deep for a young girl to ever fathom.”

Poems and more: 2015
A few sample lines: “You knew about five hundred of the names. You are the one who typed and tagged them, slid their shattered lives into bags.” ::::::::: No one knew the Vietnamese had a basement below the basement – here at the Hanoi Hilton.” ::::::::: “Trained for war but not for peace, where does the veteran go when no one wants to hear his stories? ::::::::: “The air went out of our summer after Tommy left for Nam.” ::::::::: “Do VA bureaucrats who pay lip service to Thank You for Your Service see beyond their paychecks when making those who served wait for their appointments?”

Poems and more: Fall 2014
A few sample lines: “But it was too late, I’d already guessed the cabbage’s sheared cranium split in half by red-veined sunlight pouring into the camera’s lens like unfiltered blood” ::::::::: “You want to tell her about Khe Sanh and what the heart’s really made of. You want to tell her that in each rush of blood, you hear the sound of a wounded fox in famished winter.” ::::::::: “I searched for all the four-leafed clovers I could send to you!” ::::::::: “That was the night our two buddies were lost. Later a chopper circling high in the sky…Down in the base camp the “grunts” wondered why.” ::::::::: “Some were brave and answered up the call, While others stood by their convictions and wouldn’t fight at all.”

Poems and more: Summer 2014
A few sample lines: “The Neighborhood Association sent me a letter of complaints: They want me to take the POW/MIA flag off the flagpole, say some people find it ‘threatening.’ ”  :::::::::  “Others took war home, packed souvenirs not in rugged backpacks or seen in shiny medals but rather in endless nightmares”  :::::::::  “Drank six beers the first hour. And fell ass-end-up on the floor.”  :::::::::  “He’s my baby boy, I plead. In Vietnam, of those killed, 61 percent were younger than 21. This is not a crazy, irrational fear on my part, and I can hardly breathe.”

Poems and more: Spring 2014
A few sample lines: “To all you heroes of Vietnam who came back home with mental bombs…” ::::::::: “For the cost of a bullet stamped in his back he died in the summer, he fell for his flag…”

Poems and more: Fall 2013
A few sample lines: “We remember the dead, old faded photos and tombstones that last…” ::::::::: The heroes of My Lai have pulled Ba Ngu from the ditch…”