Variations of Stories I heard in Vietnam from the Wounded by Martin Willitts Jr.

Variations of Stories I heard in Vietnam from the Wounded

They would be firing non-stop, it felt like for days,
and the enemy would come endless as rain or breath,
and there’d be this moment, not certain when,
the body and mind separated.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The body would be
clenching the trigger, fingers numb, or throbbing,
or frozen, or attached, firing, eyes no longer seeing,
but seeing too clearly what was happening, accelerated
or slowed-down, and heart firing like endless bullets,

and alongside, a temporal spirit, perhaps the soul,
outside and transparent, disgusted, refusing to act, or
rescue, or advise, or return to the body again,

and now, the body was being operated on, and
sometimes, the spirit was nearby watching detached
at the incisions, and sometimes, the spirit
had already walked away.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .But when the body awoke,
it would search for the other missing half, the
human part that knew caring. But, the two
could not merge any more than light can join shadow,
or night with day, always longing for what could have,
what will never will be again, and needing
a different kind of healing.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

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Editor’s Note: This poem uses repetition to convey the intractable trauma of war.