Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Three Poems by Victor H. Bausch

Draft Notice
3 May 1966
Late afternoon. Friday.
Sacramento simmers
in hundred degree heat.
Mom greets me,
grim news in her voice,

a sorrow I'd heard
a couple months before
at my father's funeral:
the somber sadness from which
she'd never recovered.
For those fleeting mercurial moments
between life and beyond
I'd held dad in my arms.
Heard his death rattle.
Became the man of the house,
rode in an ambulance,
called a Catholic priest,
dealt with the nightmare.
I see the envelope lying
on the hallway table

shrouded in a winding sheet
bearing my name.
I hear the faint sound
of war drums beating,
imagine my mother sobbing
beside her son's coffin.
The fire and smoke of my life
rise higher and higher.
My fate, a booby trap, detonates,
destroys what's left of my fragile world.

Civil War of the Soul
You keep asking the same question
over and over
to those who will not listen:
If it wasn't a civil war,
then why were we fighting
men, women, and children?
Like Kerouac on the road,
a hobo riding the rails,
a saint in search of the Grail,
you separate reality from fantasy,
select Fellini as your point man,
cross over life's invisible line of demarcation,
and remove your Rosencrantz and Guildenstern doubt.
For years you've looked for Viet Nam
after Viet Nam
in the drugs you took
in the alcohol you consumed
until you saw the lie
for what it was.
Now in your early fifties
you know how lemmings feel
going over the cliff,
know how pigs and cattle feel
when they're led down the chute,
know how young men feel
when they're cannon fodder
in another senseless war.
Left alone like a refugee
forced to choose
between two countries
you stave off sadness
and suicide
wrestle the demons
in this civil war of the soul.

What They Wanted
was my soul, my body, my mind.
Instead what they got
was a declaration
to wage war on the war.
In the Nam,
during my relationship
between the manipulated
and the manipulator,
I was nothing more
than U.S. Grade A American meat
used for some bureaucrat's political gain.
Now over thirty years later
in this war of no fronts,
an MIA in my own country,
I sleep lightly,
keep a knife nearby on the night stand,
continue to go on night patrols,
look for an alternative revenge.

Victor H. Bausch is a Reference Librarian, a Viet Nam veteran, a member of Veterans for Peace, and a member of the National Writers Union, Local 7, Santa Cruz/Monterey.

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