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

Once Young, Now Old

I am during this Thanksgiving, thankful for each man and woman who served in the Vietnam War. In the following poem I wrote from the perspective of one who fought there. I am grateful for all of our service men and women who are currently serving in Afghanistan and other places away from their families. I wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.

I am looking for criticism for my war poems. I welcome all and any. I will try out suggestions though I may not in the end use them.

Once Young, Now Old

I shift my focus now, go back in time and place to when I was a younger man and innocence had a face.

A time before I knew the things that I have come to know.

Like those long hot summer days.

We swam together naked, swinging off the low oak tree.

We’d drop into the swirling water laughing joyfully.

Our lives were gentle then, the pace was slow.

We would picnic in the forest as you held your hand in mine.

We ran chasing one another while we were young.

I was soon to be a man.

We lay upon the blanket as the sunrays licked the water that ran tickling down our backs.

Then gently we rolled over making love sweetly on the grass.

When autumn came I went away to school, it was learning that I sought.

But alas, I would stray until that fateful day.

The DOD came knocking on my door, its hand graciously stretched out to me.

I would be forever changed.

I saw it as my duty, a service to this land.

They offered me the promise that they would make of me a man

After basic, I said my goodbyes as we shipped out to Nam.

The place was a hot and seething hell.

Once verdant it had seen the Orange death. I saw way too many flame and fall.

This was a place where mosquitoes were as big as tarantulas and roaches ruled the day.

It seemed that hungry, deadly snakes there, hung from every tree just to make a meal of you.

The rats so big they stared and laughed at you when you had the chance to pee.

The ARVN and the ANZAC stood with us side by side in what would be the worst of wars that men had ever seen.

Together we watched each other’s back.

We fought the devil till he fell.

But the bastard, he got up again just to get us from behind.

Their faces gone, torn, ripped off, beheaded, shortened limbs left lying on the ground.

For that motherfucker Charlie ran way ahead of us sinking his lousy mines.

Always making sure that there would be many more to carry back to camp in pieces from the blast.

Our numbers dwindling now, and reeling from the loss, we looked for mail and wondered? Would she wait for me or Dear John me in the back? Was there another guy in her life now?

A hit of reefer dulled the pain.

Would we make it back alive or arrive home in a box?

They say we are the lucky ones. I came home to stay. She was gone.

Years later now, an old man, I lie awake most nights with insomnia my friend.

Jack Daniels always by my side … but like myself empty now and parched down to the bone.

My sleeplessness a sign that still today:

I am on the lookout for those I left behind.

Know this my brothers you still live within my heart.

My tears for you the only sign that today I am alive.

Posted at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads

2008-2010 © Liz Rice-Sosne

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

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.