Forty Years Later

by Martin Willitts, Jr

I am still in Vietnam, still as a crane in field marsh
when the uneven sunset reflected on the lake
turns dark red like blood
from the twisted ruins of a body
I am giving an emergency tracheostomy

the ripped open chest cavity of earth like a foxhole

I am back there again, again and again
a revolving tour of duty
in the ward of bandages and pain
with no viable exit strategy

awake as silence in the moments before---

ducks glide as Baby Huey helicopters
in reverence

in coming

bodies stacked as cord wood
medics compressing wounds
shrapnels of words
clouds of intestines unraveling

if I was a crane, I would have taken off, lifted
my body out of the experience

all this in silence, a moment
sudden as death,
transparent as the skin when exploding

calendars zipped into body bags,
name tags absent or assigned wrongly
as all bodies are the same body
when blended together
bone fragments of memory
stories of untold, nameless, forsaken
in black plastic bags like purses
damages not controlled

if we speak, it comes out as bullets
the naming begins
like Kaddish,
here lie the remains
of what was once human
now beyond recognition

we are not sure which arm belongs where
what skull fragment is a hill
whose tongues speaks foreign and familiar

I am still crawling though bodies like days
numb as a grenade
bringing the dead, dying, wounded, mutilated
stumps of legs
wildflowers of lungs
to the field hospital
wearing a Red Cross
as a target

I do not have to close my eyes to see
it it’s in my skin
my tongue explodes
with re-occurring precision

I have remind myself
I am no longer there but here
miles and years away from carnage
that all wars are the same war
all suffering is the same and awful

the bed I crawl into is not a foxhole

How To Find Peace, Kattywumpus Press, 2011

Martin Willitts Jr's picture

Martin Willitts Jr was nominated for 5 Pushcart Awards and 2 Best Of The Net awards. He has print chapbooks "Falling In and Out of Love" (Pudding House Publications, 2005), “Lowering Nets of Light” (Pudding House Publications, 2007), The Garden of French Horns” (Pudding House Publications, 2008), “Baskets of Tomorrow” (Flutter Press, 2009), “The Girl Who Sang Forth Horses” (Pudding House Publications, 2010), “Van Gogh’s Sunflowers for Cezanne” (Finishing Line Press, 2010). He has online chapbooks "Farewell--the journey now begins" on (, 2006), “News from the Front” (, 2007), “Words & Paper” (, 2008). He has two full length books "The Secret Language of the Universe" (March Street Press, 2006), and “The Hummingbird” (March Street Press, 2009). He has four new chapbooks: “True Simplicity” (Poets Wear Prada Press, 2011), “My Heart Is Seven Wild Swans Lifting” (Slow Trains, 2011), “Why Women Are A Ribbon Around A Bomb” (Last Automat, 2011), and “Art Is Always an Impression of What an Artist Sees” (Muse Café, 2011).

Last updated August 15, 2011