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Courageous Conversation with Doug and Gabe

Published on: August 21, 2017

Filed Under: Connections to Today, Featured, Poet's Corner, Veterans & Families, Video

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This post originally appeared at MainePublic.com.

Maine Public is encouraging Vietnam Veterans and anyone affected by the conflict to share their own story on the Vietnam War and correspondence they had during or after the war. Submissions can be written, recorded or videotaped and sent to Maine Public at mystory@mainepublic.org. The stories will be collected and archived here and some may be shared with the greater Maine audience.

 

 

Doug Rawlings, Veterans For Peace

I have two collections of poems, some of which are based on my experience as a soldier in Vietnam (I was with the 7/15th artillery, central highlands, July 1969 to August 1970); Stu Kestenbaum will be reading my poem THE WALL on Poems from Here on Maine Public September 15; one of the poems below was featured in the Maine Historical Society’s show Maine Veterans’ Voices; Tilly Laskey and I appeared on the 207 show discussing the project.

I am an editor of a collection of letters entitled LETTERS TO THE WALL, in which there are 150 letters from the 371 we have collected so far over the past three years — each Memorial Day we deliver these letters to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC (the letters are written by people who were “directly impacted by the war” including soldiers, family members, anti-war resisters, etc); each week I lead discussion sessions at the Togus VA Psychiatric Ward, using veterans’ poetry to help patients deepen their understanding of who they are (and me, too); and, finally, I am a co-founder of Veterans For Peace. Phew. Just saying that I am a member of a group of Vietnam veterans who has been grappling with this experience for fifty years. I really appreciate your efforts to bring out our voices. All the best, Doug Rawlings

2017 TWO POEMS TRANSLATED

THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE

for Phan Thi Kim Phuc

“Whatever you run from becomes your shadow.”– traditional

If you’re a namvet, a survivor of sorts,

she’ll come for you across the decades

casting a shadow in the dying light of your dreams,

naked and nine, terror in her eyes

Of course you will have to ignore her —

if you wish to survive over the years —

but then your daughters will turn nine

and then your granddaughters nine

As the shadows lengthen.

So, you will have no choice on that one night

screaming down the Ridge Road, lights off,

under a full moon, she standing in the middle of the road,

still naked and nine, terror in her eyes

Now you must stop to pick her up, to carry her back

home to where she came from, to that gentle

village where the forgiving and the forgiven

gather at high noon. There are no shadows.

— Doug Rawlings

Translated into Vietnamse by Lucy Do

BÉ GÁI TRONG BỨC ẢNH

dành tặng Phan Thị Kim Phúc

“Bt c th gì bn chy đi đều tr thành cái bóng ca bn – châm ngôn

Khi anh cựu chiến binh, người sống sót sau những ngày bom đạn

hình ảnh ấy sẽ theo anh qua bao thập kỷ,

chiếc bóng hằn lên ánh sáng trong những giấc mơ đen

chín tuổi, trần truồng, mắt nai sợ hãi

Anh tất nhiên phải cố quên cô bé ấy —

để tiếp tục đời mình trong những trang kế tiếp —

nhưng đến lúc bé gái con anh lên chín

hay đứa cháu ngây thơ vừa tròn chín tuổi

Khi bóng xế đêm dài

Và một đêm anh không còn lựa chọn

tiếng kêu thét trên đường đê trong đêm tối không đèn

dưới ánh trăng rằm cô bé đứng giữa đường

vẫn chín tuổi, trần truồng, mắt nai hoảng sợ

Giờ anh bế bé lên nhẹ nhõm

đưa em về lại mái ấm thân thương

ngôi làng hiền hòa, nơi kẻ vị tha và người được ân xá

hòa hợp cùng nhau giữa buổi trưa đứng bóng . Đời không hắt bóng

Doug Rawlings

——-

UNEXPLODED ORDINANCE: A BALLAD

for Chuck Searcy and the thousands of Vietnamese who have labored off and on since 1975, working to undo what we have done

So I was maybe all of twenty-one

when they whipped me

into some kind of soul-less shape

Yet another one of America’s

weeping mothers’ sons

sent forth into this world

to raze, pillage, and rape

And now it’s coming on

to another Christmas Eve

And songs of joy and peace

fill up our little town

How I ask myself

could I possibly believe

I could do what I did

and not reap what I had sown

In that land far away

from what I call home

a grandfather leads

his granddaughter by the hand

Into a field where we did

what had to be done

They trip into a searing heat

brighter than a thousand suns

———

Doug Rawlings

7/15th Artillery

Translated into Vietnamese by Lucy Do

QU BOM KHÔNG N: MT BN TRƯỜNG CA

Thân tng Chuck Searcy và hàng ngàn người bn Vit Nam

đang mit mài công tác hàn gn vết thương chiến tranh

Năm tôi hai mươi mốt

quân đội kéo tôi vào

những tháng ngày binh nghiệp

Người mẹ chiến binh Mỹ

rơi lệ thảm vì con

Bị gửi ra tiền tuyến

tàn phá, cướp giết và hãm hiếp

Và nay mùa lễ hội

trước ngày Chúa Giáng Sinh

Vui khúc ca hòa bình

tràn ngập thị trấn nhỏ

Tôi tự vấn thân mình

rằng tôi có thể tin

Những gì tôi đã làm

mà không gặt quả gieo

Nơi miền đất xa xôi

cách nhà tôi vạn dặm

Một cụ già dắt cháu

tay bé gái xinh xinh

Thả bước trên cánh đồng

nơi chúng tôi đã làm

những nhiệm vụ được giao

Hai ông cháu sẩy chân

ngã vào vùng lửa bỏng

nóng hơn ngàn mặt trời

——-

Doug Rawlings

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