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
TEARS OF QUẢNG TRỊ
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.
SOME SCARS NEVER HEAL
by Dan Shea
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.