Archive for the ‘Vietnam War Veterans’ Day’ Category

Today is Vietnam War Veterans Day. I honor you all with these two poems. The first was written for a Vietnam War veteran who protected me by walking away. The second is from that war that entered my classroom:

The Wooden Soldier

The wooden soldier marches
As he was wound to do.
Steadily, rhythmically,
Mechanical precision.
The only dislocation
Between manufactured knees.
The wooden soldier marches
Then stands perfectly still,
A soldier no more
But a wooden peg.

But the soldier I know
Keeps on marching.
He keeps on beating
For he has no key
To stop him from seeing
Dislocated limbs
Of children on children.
He has no key
To stop him from smelling
The river of blood
On Sunday afternoons.

Forgive us, O Soldier
For factorizing keys
Only for soldiers
On wooden knees.
Forgive us, soldier
For mechanized birds,
Wooden logs and battlefields.
frances kakugawa
Golden Spike:Naylor Co., 1973
reprinted in my Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless
Golden Spike

The signs were there: when students need to talk

they hang around my desk, playing with my stapler or

realigning my pencils and pens until there is privacy

for courage to emerge.


“Sometimes”, she quietly started , still playing with pencils,

“I get up at three in the morning and hear my dad crying.

I go downstairs and he’s sitting on steps, crying in the dark.

He was in the Vietnam War; He won’t talk about it

but I watch him cry a lot. He can’t sleep. I know because I always

see him on the steps. I wish I knew how to help him.”


Damn! Here’s that war again.

No child ought to be wakened at 3 a.m. by a father’s tears.

No child ought to be sucked in, to twenty five year old wars.

No child ought to have dreams of brightly crayoned images

Disrupted by black ashes.


I wasn’t trained to undo the nature of war.

I didn’t know how to banish the phantoms of war.

Maybe…maybe…I gave her a copy of Golden Spike.

“ I wrote these poems about the war.

Maybe your dad will find this book helpful.”


A few weeks later, in her class journal: Private to Miss K:

My dad is always reading your book.

He carries it around with him and he’s not getting up anymore,

he’s not crying anymore. Thank you for helping him.

Is it okay if I keep the book a bit longer? He wants to know,

did you know someone from the Vietnam War?

“Yes”, I wrote in her journal,
“Tell your dad I knew someone just like him.”

On the last day of school, once again she stood near my desk.

“I’m sorry for not returning your book, but my dad

is still reading it. I hate to take the book away from him.”

“I gave that book to both of you. I’m so glad my poems help him.”

She held on to our hug, whispering,

“Thank you, Miss Kakugawa.”
from Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless

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