Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | January 31, 2014

Poem to Commemorate Tet of 1968

 I’ve been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, but remembering Tet, forty-six years ago, brought me back.  I’ll be posting more frequently soon.


             VETERAN’S DAY


The windows of my winter room face south,

days move in cyclic patterns,

shadows and light,

against the distant wall.


First touches of late dawn

dimly light flowers on the wallpaper

past curved green steel

at the foot of my bed.


Large petals, once bright

as the floral pattern of Mother’s dress,

vivid in the black and white snapshot

that shows her smiling,

holding a child that once was me.


Tiny wildflowers I can see in midmorning,

illuminate spring-day memories in green light;

a lake of blue forget-me-nots

the patchwork quilt, our private island,

and afternoon–infinity.


Hard light of noon,

cold this late in the year,

brings out the stain,

(too far for me to touch again)

that seeped from inside and spread,

dark as old blood on a sidewalk

in Saigon’s Street of Flowers,

at Tet: The Year of the Monkey.


Long slanting light of winter evening,

(sliding quickly now, across the far wall)

glows red like nights of neon, there,

where slender black-haired girls

sold their flowers, wrapped in cheapest paper,

cut off in morning, shriveled by noon.

(I had not known roses could be garish;

gladiolus, tawdry.)


The open door sucks up terminal light,

as into a black hole

until night drops like a collapsing tent,

a phantom weight where my legs once lay.


Mercury vapor lamps outside glow blue;

like parachute flares that began with a pop

then hung and fell,

swinging in metronomic quiet,

provoking quick machinegun spatters,

-tracers burning like quick meteors

into awful silence-

and moving shadows of winter’s skinny limbs

bounce their wind-dancing mockery

across flat, empty blankets.




only the cycling turn

spinning this vast wheel of darkness and light

touches me now

-since that hard, high flash:

truncating pain

that tied this shell as souls are tied,

over curving junctures of black and white,

yin and yang,

lying in detritus of yesterdays

-waiting with the rest for dawn.

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