Today I hand over my blog to two distinguished poets, one inspired by the other in a truly moving symbiosis. Take a few moments and listen to Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and Dan Shea


by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

After the last American soldiers
had left Vietnam
and grass had grown
scars onto bomb craters,
I took some foreign friends to Quảng Trị,
once a fierce battlefield.

I was too young for war
to crawl under my skin
so when I sat with my friends
at a roadside café, sipping tea,
enjoying the now-green landscape,
I didn’t know how to react
when a starkly naked
woman rushed towards us, howling.

Her ribs protruded like the bones
of a fish which had been skinned.
Her breasts swaying like long mướp fruit,
and her womanly hair a black jungle.

I was too young to know
what to say when the woman
shouted for my foreign friends
to return her husband and children to her.

Stunned, we watched her fight against villagers
who snatched her arms and dragged her away from us.
‘She’s been crazy,’ the tea seller said.
‘Her house was bombed.
Her husband and children…
she’s been looking for them ever since.’

My friends bent their heads.
‘But the war was here forty-six years ago,’ I said.
‘Some wounds can never heal.’ The tea seller shrugged.

And here I was, thinking green grass
could heal bomb craters into scars.


by Dan Shea

Inspired by

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai‘s

poem Tears of Quang Tri. 

Green Marine deployed to

Quang Tri Province, Viet Nam 

August – October 1968

occupation machine gunner

The thunder of artillery

was a heartbeat of war

death danced to it’s tune

helicopters kept the rhythm

Mountain Jungles took 

our breath away, a sniper’s

bullet sang, you don’t belong

a marine fell, baptized in blood

Death tapped me on 

my shoulder, I refused 

the dance, a mortar shell

a vibrating cymbal in my head

It was over fifty two years

ago, some scars never heal

war was wrong, I an enemy

we should have been friends.


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