When you go to the wall, / You can feel all the heat of that cool decade
March 20, 2006 11:56 PM   Subscribe

Our Fourth LT
When that LT got wasted,
just about cut in half,
we spoke of him,
had a toke for him,
smilingly remembering
when he told the general,
"Sir, I have come to consider
my primary mission
in Vietnam to be
to get my own young ass
and those of my men
the fuck out of here, alive.
It just happened
that this time
the Army's mission
and mine, coincided.
. . . .

I know our standard practice here is to compete to see who can show the most withering contempt or cleverest snark or jaded cynicism or disgusted complaint that the FPP is "teh worst EVAR!1!eleventy1!", but for this thread I encourage you to read some of the poetry archive, find a poem that speaks to you, and post its most telling lines here, with a link back to the whole poem.
posted by orthogonality at 12:07 AM on March 21, 2006

Dulce et Decorum Est 1917 Wilfred Owen.
posted by adamvasco at 12:50 AM on March 21, 2006

Interesting Links. Thank You.
posted by adamvasco at 12:52 AM on March 21, 2006

Fantastic archive of stuff there. I'll be reading for hours.

from A Dream of Two Wars, by Jerry Gold

If the purpose of my dream was to reconstruct my past in such a way that I could accept it, was the nightmare also one of a collective kind? Are we revising our history in order to mythologize it, to make it into something that portrays us as we would like to see ourselves? "We could have won in Viet Nam if we had been allowed to fight." "We are a kinder, gentler people...."

This myth, I think, has propelled us into the desert. It is a myth become hypothesis: we are testing it, to determine if it is the right myth, the one that will tell us that we are a righteous and invincible people once again. About one thing President Bush and his Defense Department spokesmen are right: the Persian Gulf is not Viet Nam.

But we are in the Persian Gulf because we were in Viet Nam.

January 1992. It always comes back around, doesn't it?
posted by kyleg at 1:50 AM on March 21, 2006

The last line of the first linked poem: PS. Save the instructions for your grandkids. They'll come in handy.

Very good reading.
posted by zaelic at 2:57 AM on March 21, 2006

The General and The Kiss by Siegfried Sasson
posted by hardcode at 4:40 AM on March 21, 2006

I thought kill ratio, though not the best poem I have read on the site, is one of the most powerful comments on war in general and its inherent stupidity...
posted by slimepuppy at 4:41 AM on March 21, 2006

Great post. I was going to quote the same line zaelic did (me, I would have used it for the title of the post, but yours is good too), so I'll quote this instead:
I hate every fucking one of you
who make dollars from our deaths.
I hate every fucking one of you
for my friends' dying breaths.

I hate every fucking one of you,
banker or corporation head.
I hate every fucking one of you
for so many, so young, and dead.

I hate every fucking one of you
with your pin-striped, dark blue suits.
I hate every fucking one of you
for all those empty boots.
posted by languagehat at 5:35 AM on March 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

languagehat writes "me, I would have used it for the title of the post"

Yeah, I like that line too, but in this post I want to emphasize the excellent poetry and the loss (of life, of innocence, of trust, etc.), rather than letting it be swamped by the (merely political) anger.

Of course this post was ultimately motivated my the 3rd anniversary of the current war, but proximately I got here via Shakespeare's Henry V, Southey's Old Kaspar, and Wilfred Owen's repudiation of Horace, and I don't want to emphasize the partisan anger.

Let the reader feel the loss, and then let him understand where the anger is born.
posted by orthogonality at 7:19 AM on March 21, 2006

I am the living death
The memorial day on wheels
I am your yankee doodle dandy
Your John Wayne come home
Your Fourth of July firecracker
Exploding in the grave -- Ron Kovic

posted by jikel_morten at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2006

Good point. You chose well.
posted by languagehat at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2006

Terrific stuff. Horace Coleman seems like e.e. cummings with
a muchharder life.
posted by yerfatma at 9:58 AM on March 21, 2006


Having slapped a machete,
then a rock, from his hand,
I pushed the young boy
at gunpoint
toward the other villagers,
away from the still form
of his father.

Mere words were all I left
with which he could fight.
"Someday, GI, mebbe you die!"

The B-40 shrapnel
that weeks later
tore into me,
hit no harder.

posted by edverb at 11:32 AM on March 21, 2006

I don't suppose I'll ever forget

the guy in the Vet Center who'd started dreaming
about those hootches he used to crawl into
in the dark and cut throats and the visits he gets
when the President passes through town
and the "mystery" babies
people's old ladies kept having and
the divorce papers they'd get after she'd moved,
sold the house, and bought a new car and the way that
peckerwood was almost too ashamed to say "Thanks"
after I'd saved his life
or the parties where everybody brought a fifth and
nobody left till all the soldiers were dead
and ol' Bear wanting to shoot the lieutenant
(which wasn't a bad idea but he was
too nice a kid to have to do the time)
so I took it away from him or
the night they brought the VC in
(labor detail
on their way to the Chieu Hoi Center
for some R&R) and
nobody told us they were coming
so the bolts going back on the 16s
sounded like a cricket convention
as I scoped the skinny fuckers out real good
and not one came up to my shoulder
or had any real meat on him
and I could have punched them all out real easy
and they looked just like the hired help
but they weren't scared and just kept
watching me watching them until one laughed and
put a V of fingers
and then a thumb and forefinger to his mouth so
I tossed them a canteen and some Say- Lems
and we all smoked and
I didn't even ask for the pack back

posted by jokeefe at 11:32 AM on March 21, 2006

I was relieved we had done the right
thing after having done something wrong,
sorry for our mistake, more honest
diplomats than the diplomats.
(Emphasis mine)

Not technically the best poetry I've read from the link, but that concept really stirs me in the same way this did when I first learned about it as a kid. I'd imagine it's too often the case in war that those on the ground make better diplomats than those far removed but holding the official positions, but I've never been and I don't know.
posted by rollbiz at 1:05 PM on March 21, 2006

"It's a shame," my father says,
Climbing the back steps,
"You didn't get to serve
In a real
posted by Smedleyman at 1:30 PM on March 21, 2006

God, these poems are devastating. Heartbreaking. Thank you for posting.
posted by etaoin at 11:37 AM on March 22, 2006

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