Martin Willitts Jr
I spent time as a Field Medic in Vietnam for the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) and I was wounded. I was told I would never walk again, but I have been walking for over 40 years. I have been slowly writing about my time in war. I have over 20 chapbooks plus 11 full-length collections. My forthcoming books include “Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed” (FutureCycle Press); “Three Ages of Women” (Deerbrook Press); and the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, “The Wire Fence Holding Back the World” (Flowstone Press).
For some reason, the battlefield was blue.
The noise of bullets was bending in air.
Missiles were searching for a place to shatter
and splint, and the tailing waves of sound
followed loyally to add a final thump to impact.
I would patch the wounds under these streaks.
For some reason, I believed if I ignored the bullets,
they would overlook me. As I pressed on the blood,
I let the wounded hurtle scream after scream into the sky.
If it helped them to do that, I’d let them.
There was no reason for war,
so why should I think there was any rationality left?
You’d be amazed what I would do
if we ran out of bandages.
For some reason, blood reminded me of geraniums.
We would bring back anyone wounded.
Death does not discriminate, so why should we?
Sometimes. the grass was blue as I carried men back.
The grass was high and thick like pain,
slowing my progress through places ignored by reason.
And I would return, find some more, bring them back,
like I was a metronome.
Not everyone made it, either on the field or in operation.
However, there would always be some who survived.
If I helped some to make it, then it was less bodies for Death.
And I returned, irrationally, into the blue deadly light.
You Asked Me What I Was Planting
I am cultivating a private garden of sound,
far from the wilderness of constant war.
Pain is never free; it comes with a terrible cost,
and only politicians profit from conflicts.
There is no middle ground; just a no-man’s land.
You either live or die or linger to die another day
in another country you do not believe in.
Causes are terrible wood to toss on a fire.
I whisper psalms into the wounded land.
I am halfway ready to talk about those years
over forty years ago in Vietnam as a field medic.
The rest of me craves stillness,
listening to the grass and petunias
without war, without suffering,
no shadows dying under the suffering woods,
leaves bright with Agent Orange flame.
©2016 Martin Willitts Jr
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