As part of a project for humanities, we were tasked with reading, analyzing, and writing poetry that fits a theme from the 20th century. I chose to look at pieces around the Vietnam war. Below are the three poems that I wrote for this project, as well as an explanation of the thought put into them.
To them I am a figure
And a provider of statistics
Kills to deaths
Putting a tally on destruction
They say no value can be put
On a human life
But they’re damned well trying
I may be a subordinate
Insignificant in the grand scheme
But the power I hold
Is nothing to laugh at
And I choose to use it to resist
Part of what I used to help shape this poem was a natural rhythm. Not a strict form, but I wanted everything to flow nicely until the last line, in which things change. A lot of the poetry about the war is literal. Although they use figurative language, the message is usually clear. So I wanted to use some of the same themes from these poems, and pull them together in something that seems grim with a voice that comes across as frustrated and fed up. Whether you read the poem as by a soldier who decides to leave duty, a draft dodger, or even a Vietnamese soldier fighting against the Americans, the tone is the same.
Who is it that against we are pitted
What justifies the crimes committed
There is so much we’ll never know
Going on in this awful show
My grip is tight as I hold my gun
It seems that we will stop for none
There is no rest when the objectives wicked
Perhaps you’re just too afflicted
My soul is numb for weeping so
And even still we do not go
Are kills battles really won
Each loss is replaced by another mans son
My goal here was to try and use rhyme to convey a somber tone. I was inspired by the fact that “Dance to the Music” had a rhyming pair, and there were some couplet lines in “Implosions”, and so I decided to write a poem in the form of rhyming couplets. These are questions I ask myself about war, and although it is written from the point of view of a soldier, “I hold my gun”, it is in a sense me trying to come to terms with what happened.
And I keep walking
And I keep walking
And I stop walking
In this poem, I wanted to attempt to write something that could serve to illustrate two points, by using vague adjectives. Snuffed is a term usually used for fire, but it can also be used for killing. To this end, I wanted to talk about the death of a soldier on the battlefield by comparing it to the burning of a village, and the fire eventually going out. Destructive in it’s time, both serve a purpose they may not have wanted, that they did not choose.
The use of a very simple form and a lot of repetition was part of keeping it vague, but it was also meant to give everything a rhythm, so that to some extent the last line is unexpected.