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 Viet Nam Generation Journal & Newsletter

V3, N3 (November 1991)

Texts made available by the Sixties Project, are generally copyrighted by the Author or by Viet Nam Generation, Inc., all rights reserved. These texts may be used, printed, and archived in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. Copyright law. These texts may not be archived, printed, or redistributed in any form for a fee, without the consent of the copyright holder. This notice must accompany any redistribution of the text. A few of the texts we publish are in the public domain. For information on a specific text, contact Kalí Tal. The Sixties Project, sponsored by Viet Nam Generation Inc. and the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, is dedicated to using electronic resources to provide routes of collaboration and make available primary and secondary sources for researchers, students, teachers, writers and librarians interested in the 1960s.

Poetry by Bill Shields

ghost poem

I've died
too soon

my blood
scarcely mattered

I was married once
had children


& before all that
I went to Vietnam

& after all that
I went to Vietnam

I saw the earth
splashed in blood

souls stabbed out
of living bodies

children dead
in their mothers' stomachs

human bodies blended
with high speed steel

I only believed
in myself

& today
I forgot

a pure ghost poem

I don't want to hear
your version of Vietnam

until you have the courage
to hold your dying mother's head

as she fills your lap
with bloody vomit

& dies in your arms

think of that moment
for twenty odd years

remember what you said
or more importantly, what you didn't do

dream of your cowardice
your absolute fear

& smell the room she held you
inhale the blood & hair

walk in her bones
till your wife finds you

crying in a back room
or a garage

I'll be there
with you

like a newborn

miles of bones

58,000 suicides
is a lot of bullets

wrecked cars
ruined veins

dead bottles
kids without fathers

American flags
& miles of dirt dug

the number of Vietnam

veteran suicides . . .
it equals the names

on the Wall
today: 7/09/91 8:10 p.m.

we'll exceed it

more suicide
than combat death

If you can't feel
this pain

you're already

all these



I never wore a yellow ribbon
& I've bled for this country
no flag either
or "WELCOME HOME HEROES" bumper sticker on my car
I can't find one good thing to say
about American teen-agers firing extremely high-tech weaponry
against a virtually unarmed enemy
A parade for our heroes?
A parade for death?
What was the body count anyway?
How many Iraqi children died with our metal in their bones?
I'm not going to make a nineteen year old kid a hero
for having the innocence to kill
I have two Purple Hearts myself
for being young & stupid
& that is not an excuse
to fill a coffin

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Updated Wednesday, January 20, 1999

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