Monday, July 25, 2005

Keeper of the Heads

(this is one I wrote a few months ago)

Nights, when the rain falls like bullets
and lightning shocks the ground with bomb-white flashes,
the heads in my basement talk to me.

My grandfather tells me I'm such a good girl.
My mother asks if I want rice.
My grandmother offers to brush my hair.
My father grunts in his sleep.

They speak for hours about the old days;
days before Ho Chi Minh lifted his fist.
Before the French. Before the Americans.
Days when our land rose in green stair-steps
to kiss the morning heat, and flowers
formed a rainbow along the jungle's edge.

My brother yanked their bleeding heads
off the posts surrounding our slaughtered village,
ears sheared clean for the Americans' belts.
He and I had been sent searching for roots.

I brought them here, well hidden,
even from my G.I. husband, the man
I seduced, married, and ultimately killed,
the man whose house I still inhabit.

Blood taken for blood given.

He never knew I killed many before him
during my days first as orphan, then bar girl.

My looks saved me.
I'm still beautiful, though silver weaves through
my hair like tears.

Tears for our trampled rice paddys.
Tears for our streams bubbling with blood.
Tears for the slain water buffalo and barren trees
leaning into a sky burned orange by Napalm.

Tears, too, for lost innocence and
hands that will never again wash clean.

Pris Campbell


Michael Parker said...

Oh I do love this gory and descriptive poem about culture, war, and the horrors revisited on the sound of a storm. Well done.

Pris said...

Hi Michael
Thanks. Having had a husband and brother in law in that war, it still come back to visit me at times.

tammy said...

"My brother yanked their bleeding heads off the posts surrounding our slaughtered village"

This line reminds me of something out of 'Apocolypse Now' or the book the movie was based on, 'Heart of Darkness.' ("The horror, the horror.")

Great poem.

Pris said...

Thanks, Tammy. 'The horror, the horror' was what I often felt when my brother in law visited and he and my first husband talked about what happened out there. Head. Ears on belts. The fraggings. Kids with grenades. Cong being thrown out of helicopters...

Geoff Sanderson said...

'Mistah Curtis, he dead'. Oh, you said it all here, Pris. I like the way you leave us guessing for a while on who is speaking. Great writing!

Pris said...

Thanks, G!

sigmund fraud said...

I liked this poem very much. Digging through archives, I have never come across so many good poems anywhereelse . Love this site.

Pris said...

Thanks! I'm going to visit yours more, too. Just posted there.