Poems about Histories.

Vietnam V poem by John Barr

Vietnam V

By John Barr / from The Hundred Fathom Curve

I stare down into waterburn.
This urge to enter what we see.
Unrefracted tropical sun
with its whole arm
works deeply the ocean interior.

Water and light in union
make a third thing—color as fluid
deepened endlessly.
Into the quarry of aquamarine,
high-walled with light, the mind high dives.

My fingers cleave watersilk.
I breathe heavy light.
The big cavitation of the props
gone by, my struggling stops, my slowed

descent, in diminishing light,
gains the country where the shark
is eagle, fish the fishermen, and men
no more than stones along the road.

Good Men Who Eat Their Cubic Mile of Cold image

Good Men Who Eat Their Cubic Mile of Cold

Good men, who eat their cubic mile of cold,
their biscuits of loneliness without complaint,
bad boys, who never finished school
but welcome the war zone for the extra pay.

For the various ocean on which they work
they show no feeling only the respect
lumberjacks would show a leaning tree.
Waterspouts, whales pass distantly.

The “youngsters," down in the hold with dreams,
don't hear the pumps reciprocate with steam.
The old men, repair their only art,
no longer follow arrivals and departures of the heart.

Each makes a pact with steel,
comforted in the mesh of part and part.
They never age: machinery maintained,
they seem by that to be sustained.

Before agreeing to a Sailor's Home,
they would put to sea once more
and, far out, lay the fires
and give the ship into the hands of drift.

Vietnam XII

By John Barr / from The Hundred Fathom Curve

We listen to a strike go in,
watch the copper twinkle of flares,
hear the pilots mark "On top."

Bombs drop out of no category
into no pattern. I don't know,
they shoot back,
the pilots note the flak offhand,
we take it in like kids at a picture show.

I don't know, a bend of river, sampans
maybe maybe not with contraband,
the great jet's angle of dive, the pilot's thumb
all come to a coincidence.

Then, too far to hear,
heat lightning there                                        and there, there.

XII war plane

Vietnam XIII

The plane in pieces raining down
thy kingdom come
the flyers, nothing more to fly in, fall.

Then our ship turning in the fog
searching the small black waves around.

Out of the weather in the hangar bay
I stoop to the debris.
The ruined gear gives back
a warmed, rank smell of sea.

Wing flap with flak holes
Orange, buoyant seat pads
Crushed helmet with fittings torn away

Lacking its head, the helmet
is him here, the man I didn't meet,
whom I may not have liked,
who may have said Jesus in surprise
when the world bucked and let him through.