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

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
no
it is 1966
all over again
the NVA
has just crossed the
DMZ
you are in the middle
of the biggest battle yet
five thousand
marines
you head north
Operation Hastings
Dong Ha
you have
arrived in hell
warships
and air power drive
them back
finally, after so many
are
lost

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
deep

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.