War Poems – A Certain Madness

I had a significant spiritual experience in 2005. It radically changed my life. It was the second life changing spiritual experience that I have had. The first was Christian in nature. The experience came to me via my plea “what do you want me to do? What should I do now?” The experience was the answer. This experience was shamanic in nature. Shamanism is something that I have studied for years. This experience lasted about 6 weeks and made me appear to be having a “breakdown” of some sort. My friends were quite worried. My husband trusted me but worried nonetheless. It was very dramatic, painful and ecstatic. I knew that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do. None the less I hung on for dear life. It was extremely hard to remain grounded. To do so I engaged the services of three different people. I remember one particularly humorous act (although I as not laughing at the time). I found myself purposefully in Forest Park a great deal answering to my experience. I was in touch with a Great Horned Owl and a Red-Tailed Hawk who each resides in this huge park. One evening I was meant to take to the hawk, as an act of thanks, a chicken wing and place it upon a particular iron pole that was 5 inches in diameter and about 3 feet high that sat in the middle of the ball fields. It was Friday night. My husband kindly came with me to Straub’s the family grocery where I shop. On Friday night the place is mobbed. So, I get in line at the butchers and wait until my turn. There is quite a wait. When it is finally my turn I order one chicken wing. Everyone else in line waiting their turn goes nuts. One chicken wing? Well no actually just a half of a wing I do not want the drummy.

For all of my life veterans were to be thought of on Memorial Day and on Veterans day. I was conceived immediately after WWII. So, my relation to veterans was not unusual. After my experience in 2005 that included experiencing the emotional torment of those who have seen battle changed me radically. I studied war. I volunteered at the VA for several years and I gained a healthy respect and love for veterans. I might add I truly gained a deep respect and love for Vietnam Vets as they are of my generation. I also acquired an abhorrence for war. I truly came to understand “love the warrior, hate the war. Most cannot enter into that cliche and act upon it. It is very tricky and very difficult.

The other thing that I did was write about 20 poems about war, veterans, acts of war … really anything that came out of my experience that year. I wish to post them here for critique, literary critique. The changes that I make as a result of this criticism will be made in my files, not within the blog post. I will thank you a head of time for your reading and criticism. My first poem has been up and critiqued so I will begin with the second. It is titled: “A Certain Madness.” It is about those who attended one particular writing class at the VA.

A Certain Madness

Each one came, soldier, marine, airman, frog
walking quietly as if wrapped from within
the cocoon of his own world.

War’s sad energy like a gray
heavy mist lay upon the shoulders of each,
reality spiking their dull black piercing shadows.

Each man sat at the table abandoned.
“Just a word”?
“Coffee please”.

“May we write yet?”
And then he stood.
A large and heavy presence, poorly balanced.

He shouted …
“Don’t you see them?
There, in the corners … one in each corner.”

“How dare they come here?
I ought-a know,
I was with the CIA.”

Then he sat down defeated again.
He seemed to relax until another
Stream of madness crept out of his throat.

“I will NOT be giving you a sample today!
There will be no writing samples.
THEY … are here for that reason you know, to collect them.”

And I thought to myself,
Does the madness hide the pain?
Or perhaps this pain drives one mad.

2008 © Liz Rice-Sosne

9 thoughts on “War Poems – A Certain Madness

  1. The pain drives one mad, I think. This poem could not be improved upon, in my opinion. I love how they come in cocoon-wrapped, “war’s sad energy” on their shoulders…..you make us SEE the man who stands up, feel his frenzied mind……..wow, kiddo. Your work with these men makes me think of the song “He Aint Heavy, He’s My Brother”. Fantastic write.

  2. “love the warrior, hate the war.” Yes.

    Love your spiritual experience. Wondered why the hawk (although I initially read it as the owl) would not want the drummer, too; guess he just asked for the symbolic flight, without the grounding symbol. — Makes sense, actually, on that journey.

  3. whew. almost a surreal type moment…maybe the madness is our minds own way of coping…of processing all that was seen…the brutality….your poem def capture s a moment in time and a reality for some…that is what makes it moving…i think it is a fine poem. if i was going to chnage anything the line ‘i thought to myself’ i may tweak that a bit…

    what an interesting experience you had as well…i would def want to hear more about it…

  4. To love the warior and not the war … indeed, Liz, that is the core mandate. This is a grand and profound post, the poem is meaningful and makes us squirm – as it should. Altogether well done. Hugs!
    Jamie

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