Martin Willitts Jr
I thought I had a normal childhood until someone told me that it was not normal. My father had partial hearing and lip-read although I tried to teach him sign language. I was the serious one, the one that took care of everyone at an early age, the one that worked on my grandparent’s Mennonite-Amish farm, the one my father took on a Freedom Bus, and the one that went to Vietnam as a CO I served as a medic. (I never told my parents I was in Vietnam.) I do not consider these poems or my Vietnam poems as Confessional poetry or “poetry as healing” or “poetry as memory/memoir”, or any other label. I have over 20 chapbooks and 11 full-length collections including How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press, 2016). My forthcoming books include Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed (FutureCycle Press) and Three Ages of Women (Deerbrook Press).
War is Lies
A soldier is crossing the battlefield of death.
A chest explosion. We operate for hours
using the hidden light in darkness. My hands
hold him open. He gurgles — blood: Will I make it?
I lie to him: It’s not as bad as it looks.
He knows I am lying. In the darkness
he can see my eyes shift away.
I look into the cavern of his chest. He asks me
to mail a letter to his girl, back home you know,
probably still waiting for him to return
keeping the porch light on and her kisses
ready to tear him apart like shrapnel.
I must lie. I must say I will, and I won’t.
I won’t have time. Another body will rush in.
Later, I will zip him into a body bag.
I knew he was lying. There was no best girl.
No porch. There was no one waiting for him.
I ask her name, knowing he is already gone,
otherwise in war, the music is not complete.
Death was pulling a wagon of carcasses.
©2016 Martin Willitts Jr
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