Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Carrying The Darkness

by lizard

The title of this post—Carrying The Darkness—comes from the title of an anthology of Vietnam War poetry edited by W. D. Ehrhart and published by the Texas Tech University Press in 1989. Here’s a quick bio of the editor from the link:

W. D. Ehrhart (b.1948) enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966 at the age of 17. He fought in Vietnam with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, receiving the Purple Heart Medal, the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, and two Presidential Unit Citations, and earned the rank of sergeant.

The poem I’ve selected is from John Balaban, titled After Our War.

*

AFTER OUR WAR

After our war, the dismembered bits
—all those pierced eyes, ear slivers, jaw splinters,
gouged lips, odd tibias, skin flaps, and toes—
came squinting, wobbling, jabbering back.
The genitals, of course, were the most bizarre,
inching along roads like glowworms and slugs.
The living wanted them back, but good as new.
The dead, of course, had no use for them.
And the ghosts, the tens of thousands of abandoned
    souls
who had appeared like swamp fog in the city streets,
on the evening altars, and on doorsills of cratered
    homes,
also had no use for the scraps and bits
because, in their opinion, they looked good without
    them.
Since all things naturally return to their source,
these snags and tatters arrived, with immigrant
    uncertainty,
in the United States. It was almost home.
So, now, one can sometimes see a friend or a famous
    man talking
with an extra pair of lips glued and yammering on his
    cheek,
and this is why handshakes are often unpleasant,
why it is better, sometimes, not to look another in the
    eye,
why, at your daughter’s breast thickens a hard keloidal
    scar.
After the war, with such Cheshire cats grinning in our
    trees,
will the ancient tales still tell us new truths?
Will the myriad world surrender new metaphor?
After our war, how will love speak?

—John Balaban


  1. Turner

    Excellent poem.

  1. 1 Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Anticipating April | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Carrying The Darkness […]

  2. 2 152 Poetry Posts to Celebrate April, National Poetry Month | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Carrying The Darkness […]




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