Two Eyes

For my friend Jamie, for whom I have much admiration and love across the great divide.

I hate war
there is
no greater evil

everything in war
it hurts everyone

death is the
responsibility of many
on either side

but if you are
the stronger
you must see

not with one eye
you must see
with two eyes

protect yourself
through seeing
with your right eye

protect the innocent
by seeing
with your left eye

oh Israel open
your left eye
and see

you must protect
all of the children
not just your own

that will be the
only way to
protect your own

Israel my great
passion I love

but I must
ask myself for the
sake of my friend

you are my friend
knowing you across
the great divide

I know that
you too suffer
and I ask myself

what about your
friend your friend
in Gaza

your friend suffers
your friend may be
lost in the war

of the powerful
how can I wish
your friend well

when I cannot see
the Palestinian

how can I pray
for your friend
whom I cannot see

I must first
open my left eye
to see to pray

peace cannot
come to one for
it will not be peace

peace can only come
to both sides or
it is not peace

war kills so many
more innocent
than guilty

somehow the guilty
seem too often
to escape war’s pain

there is too
much rhetoric
around the world

too much noise
being fueled by
too much opinion

turn your opinions
into prayers
for both sides

pray for peace for
both sides or it
will not be peace

yes today I will
pray for peace
peace for the children

peace for the women
peace for the old
peace for the young

God bring peace today
make a peaceful
cease fire to last

today I have two eyes
I can see from both
let peace reign in Israel


Sand blows across your boots
sharply raking your cornea
scraping your brain
arid is your heart
dry is your mouth
as voiceless sounds scratch
at your throat
wanting expression
with no escape.

Small dead hands
bleed in your dreams
breaking your innocence
as you weep for loss
into the night sky
with it’s ceaseless fire
it endows your sleeplessness.

One day you
will come home
the fires will wane
with hope
you will mend
where the earth
is not yet parched
your throat
no longer dry
you will walk
among pines
observe birds
standing in water
touch hands of
little ones
skipping stones
across streams
in joyful play.

You will see birds
high on the wing
leaking no jet fuel
but feathered in peace
you will lay down
your dreams change as
little pink fingers
grasp your thumbs in love.

Posted at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads – Open Link Monday.
© Liz Rice-Sosne

A Knock At The Door

I lived off-base in Okinawa with my first husband from 1967-1968. One night living in a secluded area without a phone or car a young soldier on leave from Vietnam decided to harass me. I was not frightened but it really began to annoy me after some time. This poem is a description of the experience.

A Knock At The Door

Pitch black no one around
silence upon the grounds
after ten, all had gone
a knock at the door.

Across from
McToureous Marine Base
in a compound with no phones,
no car, no English.

It was late that night
For a knock at the door
I went to answer but
there was no one there.

Puzzlement nudged me,
I know that I had heard
the hand of someone knocking.
Then again came the knock.

I opened wide and looked
from side to side
just empty space
no fear just curiosity.

Again came your knock.
I went round the house
beyond the light you stood
why knock and hide I said?

Then understanding came,
I went back inside and locked up tight.
You tossed light pebbles
at the glass that night.

Two hours you tossed.
“Remove your clothes,” you said.
“dance for me.” I am
on leave from Vietnam.

I have not seen a
woman for so long.
“Please dance for me. I want to see.”
I shoved a knife through the window.

“You pervert you,” I said.
Fear crawled up my side.
On the floor my baby cried.
When will someone come?

You kept this up for hours, nothing but
Monsoon shutters between us.
I heard a car, it was
the Sarg next door home early.

My being then relaxed
He called my husband at Torii Station.
You were to flee my midnight friend
I wonder today are you OK?

Did you recover from your delirium?
Did you recover from your wounds?
Did you leave Vietnam? Or did you return
To come home in a wooden box?

© Liz Rice-Sosne

Placed at Poets United Poetry Pantry

B52 Pilot

Long ago, I spoke to a Vietnam Veteran at length, a B 52 pilot. His words really changed my life. Speaking with him was the single act that sent me head long into this spiritual event or exercise that I keep mentioning. And yes, one day when I have the time I will write about it. However, at this point in my life I do not really have time to write. My sweet husband now has the itch to move. And it is not into this lovely cottage that we were looking at. Now it is a condo – one floor, eminently wiser as we indeed age. He is on the hunt. So here is another war poem from a pilot’s perspective. Clear left, clear right, flying terms I learned when I learned when I learned to fly. Basically you look to your right and left to see if anyone is flying near you before you turn (in a small aircraft anyway).

B-52 Pilot

The flames still leap.
My dreams aflame with hell’s fire.
Limbs still seen hanging off the wing,
suspended in mid-air.
Done now, the war over forty years
or so but still the fire comes
and still it burns. There is no sweet waking
for me from this restless sleep.
Split peach the color on the horizon,
a deep glowing red next to me. Blood red.
Dark limbs form this painful crown
round my head thorns deep.
This fire on the wing,
gaping craters below,
only numbness provides
me with a death like rest.
I am unable to awaken
or raise up.
Like a hawk, my wings broken
I fall to the ground too old to fly.
What was it for this emptiness
this black void?
Clear left, clear right, still the fire burns.
Now I am just a lonely sorrow, lost.

2008-2010 © Liz Rice-Sosne

OPEN FOR CRITIQUE. For the Poetry Pantry

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

Poems For Peace At Into The Bardo

I have learned a about war through it’s study and through a six-week shamanic experience that I had. But that is for another time. The experience gave rise to working with veterans in a creative writing program for two years at the VA. Another result of the experience was that I learned to fly a small aircraft (not getting a license just learning). Veterans writing assists them in opening their wounds and allowing the pain out so that something can be done with it. I also wrote a good bit of war poetry. I was never a war wife. I was lucky enough to only know the fear of having my ex sent to Vietnam. He was assigned instead to go to Okinawa, a place where I lived with him off base. The experience that I mention above was initiated by many long conversations over the Internet with a Vietnam Veteran B-52 pilot. It began in the USAAF forums as we each were looking for our father’s WWII history. His father flew B-24s mine was an Ordnance Officer.

The idea of peace (in this country) is compromised by many things. It is not just the Hawks in The White House or the dictators of another land, or the poverty of so many around the world that are the causes of war. War is addictive for many soldiers (soldier is used generically). It does not help that the military is totally cut off and separate from civilians. That is not a situation that engenders peacefulness within the military. There are those for whom combat is a higher high than an orgasm. I do speak of a minority of people. But it only takes one to start a war. The following is my favorite poem of all the war poetry that I have written. It is written about that time in 67-8 that I lived in Okinawa. It is the poem to which I feel the greatest connection.

Rolling Thunder

I remember them,
large black fins
in 67 & 8.
We’d drive to Kadena,
park the truck
watch them circle
like sharks
behind the security fence.

All we saw were black
shark fins … taxiing for take off,
B-52s lined up for Vietnam.
The NVA called them
Whispering Death.

Three years…860,000 pounds
of carpet bombing.

Rolling Thunder
coming out of U-Tapao,
Anderson and Guam, Okinawa.
They came in threes … Arc Light!

Coming from the 9th, the
22nd, the 91st, 99th, the 306th, the 454th, and
the 461ST, they flew at 50,000 ft,
subsonic speeds, refueled in mid air,
carried 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance.

Known with affection as BUFFS
Big Ugly Fat Fuckers
Operation Linebacker.

Ten, twelve hours in the sky
peeing in a sleeve,
you either froze or you were scorched while
flying towards hell.

Clear left, limbs seen hanging
clear right, friends seen falling from the sky.

Then, the Christmas Bombings, SAMs brought them down
U-Tapao lost two in mid-air
One in each cell…one on final…the entire crew lost.

2009 © Liz Rice-Sosne

Shared at Into The Bardo

Damn Vietnam

War really, really screws with the senses, the emotions, the body, the mind and everything else of which we humans are made. It destroys and contorts, it turns inside out, it twists and slices the emotions and the soul. When done with war if you are alive you are a different human being.

Can you? Do you go forward as this new you? Can you go back to being who you once were? No. Never. And this because you are now a different man or woman. But all of the hell that you have lived through can be chewed over and re-digested into something positive with very hard work. I tried unsuccessfully to place this at dVerse for Memorial Day. And, although not explicitly true to today’s theme – in reality it is. Found at dVerse for Synesthesia–Sensory Confusion, or…? dVerse Meeting the Bar.

Damn Vietnam

you have been home
some forty years
your rifle
under your pillow
each night
while you fire away in your sleep
I wonder why
for the war is over

Damn Vietnam

but it
is not over
it is 1966
all over again
the NVA
has just crossed the
you are in the middle
of the biggest battle yet
five thousand
you head north
Operation Hastings
Dong Ha
you have
arrived in hell
and air power drive
them back
finally, after so many

Damn Vietnam

you say nothing
until the whiskey
burns your throat
and the rage begins
its long climb up
as you attempt to
vomit out your hell
your war still there
on the surface
anger roiling
through your blood
you should be asleep old man
but your wounds are

Damn Vietnam

last night looking up
into the trees
clouds sailing
across the moon
crows speaking
I listened
while they spoke
of knowledge
of wisdom
of healing that would come
to my brothers
who were there

Damn Vietnam

Posted at dVerse for Memorial Day in Pretzels and Bullfights – see the wonderful article by Laurie Kolp. Well, this is not quite true. I did not find a link to actually publish. It might be coming later. But do read Laurie’s article.

The Poetry of War – Writing It.

Why and how can a woman who has never endured combat and never been in military service to her country possibly write poetry about war, and be impassioned with doing so? Another question may be how can she do this with any authenticity? And here in lies the need to describe an experience that I in 2005. The experience has transformed my life. It was an experience filled with extraordinary joy and extreme pain. It definitely looked as though I was having a mental breakdown and it took unimaginable strength to hang on to my sanity. But I did so with a strategy. I will share the results of this experience before I attempt to share the experience. Following are many of the results.

1) I acquired a knowledge that: “we are all one” while in China the spring after my experience. As a result I spontaneously addressed a Chinese workers protest on a Saturday night by running up to the participating seated workers. They looked hopeless. This group was protesting the torturous and bloody treatment endured by a number of employees. I went from one end of this group of about two hundred to the other end. As I did so I clapped my hands loudly while yelling “yes, yes.” Now this was a crazy thing to do in China – but it was NOT something I thought about. They, the workers, in turn got up and started clapping. Smiles came upon their faces and we each knew that indeed “we were as one.”

2) I learned to fly a 1947 Luscombe 8 tail-dragger at 60 years of age.

3) 5 different Vietnam Veterans who had seen combat chose to share their burden of war with me anonymously. Please understand veterans of war do not speak of their experiences to anyone but another veteran if at all. These veterans just came to me like a magnet.

4) I acquired a deep and abiding love for veterans of war. Whereas in the past I had thought of the veteran 3 time s a year.

5) I volunteered for 2 years at the VA.

6) I express my appreciation to veterans when I see them.

7) I made a spontaneous decision to give up my fear of heights and did so as I stood with my feet on the edge of a 2600 ft drop (no fence or railing) at Machu Picchu in 2007.

8) I came to a deep understanding of the love my father had for me (which had seemed to disappear when I was only 6-8 years old). After this experience I was bathed in his love and came to understand that it seemed to disappear as a result of WWII Combat PTSD. He was dead when I had this experience.

9) I discovered my mother’s WWII scrapbooks from the time that she had lived in London as an American employee of the OWI during the bombings. Yes, her personality too was shaped by war and very likely by Combat PTSD. I say combat because to endure bombing and have no ability to retaliate – well that is the worst kind of combat to endure isn’t it? My mother was not nice to her children. And that is a kind manner in which to explain her mothering.

Because the spiritual experience that I had was so complicated I shall simply relate the bare bones of it. As is my way I put out there; “OK what next? What do you wish me to do?” I soon found myself looking for my father’s WWII history in a number of places on line, especially in a WWII forum. I met a Vietnam Veteran there, a B-52 pilot. He too was looking for his father’s WWII history. He assisted me in my search. Then I wanted to know about his own war experiences. I was persistent. He was hesitant. I persisted and he in a halting manner shared some of his experience. This sent me into a tailspin of contemplation quite literally. I was unable to eat (trust me I never stop eating) and the need to walk, walk, walk (I don’t exercise) took up most of my time. I lost a good bit of weight. I set myself up with an energy worker to keep me grounded and a personal trainer to help me do the same. At the end of this I went to someone who “sees.” She was only slightly helpful. This is key, I experienced this Vietnam Veterans “pain” associated with his war. That was the hell of this experience. I went on to do what I always do which is decipher things for my self. Now this happened in 2005 and the last thing that I learned from this experience, I learned in 2011. I went on to study war. After the experience itself was over, I came to understand that this was a shamanic initiation. I have studied and practiced shamanic healing experiences for many years. Please understand this is not a religion. I know much more than the average person about shamanism. Throughout my spiritual path beginning at 15, I have like many, asked for a “teacher.” The answer has always been “no.” I have always had to do everything in life on my own. That statement sounds like “poor me.” It is quite the opposite and is evidence of significant personal strength. Throughout the experience I practiced certain shamanic rituals to help me deal me with the emotional pain and confusion that I was experiencing at the time. I came to understand (feel) that war is the most addicting of all addictions. I also fully understand why it is so. I have a Christian background intermingled with indigenous spirituality, a smathering of Hindu, Unitarianism, Jewish Theology, Buddhism and what ever other languages God created and gave to the world’s different cultures so that they could each grow spiritually and communicate with the creator.

I have written this as an explanation or prelude to my writing a collection of “War Poetry.” I am going to attempt at some point create a separate page here upon my blog for those poems. I wish to have them published. Today I have been newly inspired or mused by “The Headlines of War.” Now I realize that I need to widen that inspiration to simply “The Headlines.” Thank you for taking the time to read my words. I have a great appreciation for your time. Below is the first poem of war that I wrote after my experience. There is shall we say “language” in the poem that might offend.


Photo Credit Use of Boeing-owned photos posted from their web site are licensed for private, non-commercial use only.


I remember them.
Large black fins
in 67 & 8.
We’d drive to Kadena,
park the truck
watch them circle
like sharks
behind the security fence.
All we saw were black
shark fins … taxiing for take off,
B-52s lined up for Vietnam.
The NVA called them
Whispering Death.
Three years…860,000 pounds
of carpet bombing.
Rolling Thunder
coming out of U-Tapao,
Anderson and Guam.
They came in threes … Arc Light!
Coming from the 9th, the
22nd, the 91st, 99th, the 306th, the 454th, and
the 461st, they flew at 50,000 ft,
subsonic speeds, refueled in mid air,
carried 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance.
Known with affection as BUFFS
Big Ugly Fat Fuckers
Operation Linebacker.
Ten, twelve hours in the sky
peeing in a sleeve,
freezing or scorched while
flying towards hell.
Clear left, limbs seen hanging
clear right, friends literally falling from the sky.
Then, the Christmas Bombings, SAMs brought them down
U-Tapao lost two in mid-air
One in each cell…one on final…the entire crew lost.

This is posted at dVerse Poets Meeting The Bar: The Unfathomable.

Syria, Syria

We did not know the young doctor and his wife.

We were sailing down the Nile and having dinner together on the upper deck twenty-two years ago. There was a warm breeze and an atmosphere of relaxed pleasure. Falucas in the distance glowed from the sun setting over their bows.

We had spent the day at Edfu with the God Horus in his temple.

Today as Syria is disintegrating, ordinary people are being bombed, raped and murdered. I think about the young doctor and his wife with whom we had dinner low those many years ago. Are they alive? Are they all right? Where are their children? She had been pregnant on that trip down the Nile.

We enjoyed one another’s company, dining together, socializing, just being. He was a good man.

In the Tomb of the Kings he was responsible for saving the life of an old man in near cardiac arrest, an old Jew.

We all played together, enriching one another’s lives taking pleasure in each other’s company for days. These were European Jews, Israelis originally from Yugoslavia, France, Italia and other countries, Jewish children, refugees of WWII and the Holocaust.

Two young Americans, two Syrians and about 6-8 old Israelis hanging out on a boat going down the Nile visiting the ancients.

Not long after awaking the next morning our boat sank. We were hung up in a series of locks while navigating a dam. When we finally pushed through, there was a gaping hole in the hull, the boat filling up with water very quickly. We were rescued by the Egyptian Navy and never saw each other again.

But I think of them today. I know that most if not all of the Israelis are gone. Then I think of the doctor as his country is in ruins. I wonder if he is alive – does he practice medicine today?

Is he an enemy of the state or a part of Bashar al Assad’s inner circle? I am sad when I think of him and his family. He gives to Syria a very real face of war in a way that the nightly news cannot do.

Two years now and 70,000 dead. Stirring and poignant headlines daily:

The Guardian: Syria: Bashar al Assad interview to be broadcast – live updates.
Milwaukee (AP): Parents talk about journalist kidnapped in Syria.
India Today: Armed and Courageous: Meet Syria’s women rebels.
Philadelphia Enquirer: The hopes and fears of secular Syrians.
USA Today: Obama warns of extremist threat in Syria.

Two years into the war and 70,000 dead. War again taking its toll on a people on its children. One man destroying an entire country, greed and power at the core of his soul.

Many have become refugees on the borders of neighboring countries, living in squalid conditions with some but little water and food.

Some have left bombed out homes and towns taking refuge in ancient forsaken cities that look bombed out themselves. They live underground in caves with dank air and little food.

They took with them remnants of their possessions; a torn blanket, a doll without her left foot, one large bent aluminum pot, a fork and spoon, glass jars and two pillows.
What will become of these people? Will the massive and significant government armed forces intent upon their destruction destroy them?

I think of the doctor, is he still alive? What side is he on? Sadness fills me yet again. Tears fall yet again for another war.

Syria, Syria another war, another loss.

This poem is posted at dVerse

The Afghan Middle-Class

I have not written a poem in some time. I have not been inspired – and I cannot tell you why. Perhaps with age comes an inability to multitask. Perhaps I have been gathering inspiration and now it is time to write a bit.

The New York Times is my computers Home Page. Some of you know that war has long given me inspiration. Today one of the headlines is: “34,000 U.S. Troops to Exit Afghanistan Within a Year.” This headline has five photos next to it, yet they are a part of another article titled: “New Afghan Middle Class Fears for the Future.” Each photo is current. I find the first photo riveting. It is modern but looks like a painting done in the fashion of realism, but set in the latter 19th century. Poem linked to dVerse Poets Pub OpenLinkNight Week 83.

The Afghan Middle-Class
Your country in ruins, toppled, rubble all around you.
Yet oblivious you stand at the bar ready to drink the blood of your brothers.

Yes, you are the middle class, the class that capitalism and war have built.
In your dark Brooks Brothers suit you stand at the bar Martini in hand.

Confidence gives you a slight aura of a halo. But it is the wrong color betraying your motives.
You don’t see those behind, pressing about you, men and women in tribal dress.

For you it is about the money, the power.
For them it is about little pieces of freedom.

How long will her face be uncovered, her dark glasses go un-cracked?
What peace has come to them through ten years of war?

War torn, this a country of fragmented pieces without peace yearns
To be put together and made whole. Will you rebuild with these shards, this detritus of war?

Or will the broken buildings simply become bunkers for the next battle?
As I look beyond the holes in the earth, the dusty playground, I see new tombs of the rich, ugly monolithic apartments built with acts of corruption.

They create a backdrop for war-youth playing kickball in the dust.
Afghanistan has a new and fragile middle class.

A middleclass made all the more fragile by a thin partition,
the wall pushing back against poverty, ever present.

The headline reads: “Fears of the Future Haunt a Budding Generation of Afghan Strivers.”
The strivers are in their tall semi-safely constructed compound.

They are separated from the youth playing in the dust of the street.
The strivers are mere feet from poverty. How long before they fall to the next war predator?

Always the illusion of safety, created by the money of corruption separates one from poverty, until poverty comes knocking on your door again.
Better, so much better to dismantle the wall yourself and meld with a piece of that poverty, lifting up rather than separating.

Yes, what will become of the middle-class?
The middle-class is in their wasteland.