Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Vietnam War Poetry: Song of Napalm

Song of Napalm by Bruce Weigl

After the storm, after the rain stopped pounding, 
We stood in the doorway watching horses 
Walk off lazily across the pasture’s hill. 
We stared through the black screen, 
Our vision altered by the distance 
So I thought I saw a mist 
Kicked up around their hooves when they faded 
Like cut-out horses 
Away from us. 
The grass was never more blue in that light, more 
Scarlet; beyond the pasture 
Trees scraped their voices into the wind, branches 
Crisscrossed the sky like barbed wire 
But you said they were only branches. 

Okay. The storm stopped pounding. 
I am trying to say this straight: for once 
I was sane enough to pause and breathe 
Outside my wild plans and after the hard rain 
I turned my back on the old curses. I believed 
They swung finally away from me ... 

But still the branches are wire 
And thunder is the pounding mortar, 
Still I close my eyes and see the girl 
Running from her village, napalm 
Stuck to her dress like jelly, 
Her hands reaching for the no one 
Who waits in waves of heat before her. 

So I can keep on living, 
So I can stay here beside you, 
I try to imagine she runs down the road and wings 
Beat inside her until she rises 
Above the stinking jungle and her pain 
Eases, and your pain, and mine. 

But the lie swings back again. 
The lie works only as long as it takes to speak 
And the girl runs only as far 
As the napalm allows 
Until her burning tendons and crackling 
Muscles draw her up 
into that final position 

Burning bodies so perfectly assume. Nothing 
Can change that; she is burned behind my eyes 
And not your good love and not the rain-swept air 
And not the jungle green 
Pasture unfolding before us can deny it.

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