What You Made Me Feel (Blue-Eyed Johnny)

A deep abiding sadness, wistfulness… like watching a deer in the meadow, at dusk

just before that shot rings out.

Beauty/ Pain/ heartbreak/ death

Their young faces haunt me, these young men I have not met.

How strange it all was to them: Surreal Landscape, Unreal Assignments-

You must die taking this hill, then let it go…You must kill,kill,kill..

I am with you there, that bap!! Bap!! of rifle fire throwing hunks of wet earth aloft, making pieces of palm frond dance right over your head.

Over my head.

Over Our Head.

I close my eyes and see their eyes glowing in the jungle dark.

I see your eyes Johnny Boy. Your blue, blue American eyes so wide, wide open.

That mix of righteous fear, and unrighteous courage- A big question mark in your smile, the cigarette dangling from your strong, veined hand, an M-16 cradled like a lover in your arms.

If I die, I die a Hero, not a poor man’s son, not a redneck, not a carpenter, not a iron worker, no, not one…

A baby, only three or four, staring up from my daddy’s floor, to a tiny black and white TV,

Nixon’s face is what I see, then the images will start again:

Bombs will fall, flames will leap, soldiers will yell

I will sleep- to the sound of choppers overhead-they evac you while I’m still in my crib.

Can I wipe the blood from your face, with my long brown hair-

Can I pour perfumed oil on your battle scars, my blue-eyed Johnny?

Can I love you tho’ I was not there, my brother, son, lover, friend?…

Won’t that damn war ever end?

 

(written after a marathon viewing of Vietnam, The Ken Burns documentary on PBS)by Susan T. Martin, October 8,2017, but felt since I saw the images of the Vietnam war on my parent’s TV as far back as I have memory…)(I was born in 1964)