Shroud of War: Invocation

I am the Vietnam generation.

I am the generation
of witness and fire.

I was a hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War
and though far from combat,
the war haunts
me and my generation.

This war of decades ago,
and unending wars
of the American war machine,
shrouds my waking hours.

Vietnam: Fire. Redemption. Love.

I am the Vietnam Generation.

I hold the memory of two million
Vietnamese children, men, and women
killed during the War of Liberation.

I hold the memory
of 58,229 American
and 55,000 French soldiers killed.
Not killed for patriotism.
Not killed to save a nation.
Sacrificed for the Military-Industrial Machine.

I hold the memory of the
millions of wounded soldiers and children
maimed with bombs and Agent Orange.

How have we paid compensation for the
400,000 Vietnamese killed by Agent Orange?

How have we healed
this land destroyed by bombs
and Agent Orange?

How many generations
will it take to heal this land?

Is there a salve that can
soothe the scars of napalm bombs?
Is there a salve that will heal the
skin of those burned with phosphorous?

How do we Americans
care for the thousands of deformed
children born today?

When will there be contrition?

How will we atone for
My Lai and the unknown massacres?

How will we care for the people and land
destroyed by our sins and the evil of war?

While the chairman of Dow Chemical
Carl A. Gerstacker
played golf on immaculate green lawns.

While Dow Chemical’s napalm
incinerated Vietnam
and burned people alive.

While Monsanto gained fortunes for
its stockholders with Agent Orange.

While the war profiteers made their
poisons and guns to destroy Vietnam,
and proclaimed the greatness of the Democracy.

While Nixon scuttled a peace deal in 1968
so he could get elected.
While McNamara formulated the calculus of war.
Johnson, Kennedy, Kissinger, and all the architects of monumental hubris
stoked the furnace of war.

While those safe in draft deferments,
protested the war
and the poor and working-class young men
were sucked into the vortex of conscription.

I want to hold the thousands
of homeless veterans
now huddled on the streets.

I don’t want us known as
the Woodstock generation
with its ephemera of peace and love.
I want us to hold in our bones
the imperative of peace and contrition.

Do we have the courage to bend
down on our knees in
supplication?

Noble Saints of Peace

You are the warriors of the higher conscience,
who refused to march off to war.
You are the noble saints of peace,
who came to Vietnam and cared for the children.
You are the soldiers who returned and now
are working for justice in Vietnam.

You are the four students at Kent State shot dead by
soldiers while they protested against war.

To those who chose prison over war
you are the noble saints of peace.

The courageous monks, driven mad with pain,
burned themselves alive to stop war.

Your acts of resistance and love
shines with fearless courage.

Witness: Cambodia

I journeyed to Cambodia,

where the genocide and killing fields
were fostered by the American war machine.

Twenty-five percent of
Cambodians killed.
The soul of a nation
shredded by genocide.

Children born after
the Americans went safely home
are still maimed and killed by landmines.
Children in wheel-chairs begging.
Eyes famished for hope and ask us,
“Please, help.”

Where is our mercy and justice?
How is their forgiveness?
Where is our contrition?

The killing fields and landmines
are underfoot as I walk through the Mekong.

Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam
are strewn with landmines and Agent Orange.

Landmines dropped by B-52s
in a rain of evil, blacker than evil itself.

Where is the shame
that should burn in our soul?
Where is the repentance?

Where is our courage to end all war?

Laos

Beautiful innocent Laos. Nestled
in the mountains, ancient Buddhist land,
still infested with landmines that
destroy and maim children decades after the war.

Today, I walk through the fields.
Our guides point us to the right
path, but there are no signs, no guideposts
to the landmines.

I met the children at the hospital,
their legs were blown off by landmines,
and cluster bombs dropped fifty years ago.

How are we humbled and shamed by our deeds?
When will we bend to our knees
to ask forgiveness?

The US Military-Industrial Machine

We, the Vietnam generation,
have we grown complacent
waddling to retirement
and investing in the war machine?

Panama, Grenada, Iraq, Yemen,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the
necklace of our war machine
is made from the skulls of children.

We have raped, ravaged and
looted countries around the globe.

Our trillion dollar platinum plated
war machine is lacquered with
the blood and bones of its victims.

When will we fight the real war?

The war against poverty?
Our war to save the environment?
When we will
end our desire for war?

We, the Woodstock generation,
born in the shadows and fire of war.
We saw the nightly news
with the daily tallies of death,
while our brothers and kin
we’re killed for a war of lies.

What of the greater love?

Contrition?
Humility?
Atonement?

I am the Vietnam generation.
I am the generation of witness and fire.

Tune in!

Tune in!
Turn on!
Drop out!

No, my soul is no longer on ice.

I burn with the shame
Of our wars!
I burn with the shame
of our deeds.
Our shame should burn as bright
as the phosphorous bombs
that we dropped in Vietnam

I burn with rage!
I burn with this shame!

I don’t want to be
remembered for the delusions
of pot and drugs, turn on,
tune in, drop out, the fog
of forgetting.

I need us to be the
generation of remembering.

The generation
of witness and contrition.

We were born in the fire of
Nagasaki and Hiroshima, in the ashes of
the Korean War and the inextricable
nightmare of Vietnam.

The Path to Contrition

Can we be the generation
of redemption and contrition?
Can we be the generation of peace?

I am the Vietnam generation.

I am the generation
of witness.

How will our actions of
true peace, forgiveness, and justice.

Render healing?

How will we be
the generation of contrition?

Namaya
24 December 2020