2. Offers the most accurate possible symbolic image of objects which when they are actually seen cause distress

Posted: February 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

“Jungle Rot and Open Arms,” Janice Mirikitani

For a Vietnam Veteran brother, ex-prisoner
and jungle too
brought him
back to us
brimming with hate
and disbelief
in love or

his johnnywalker red 
tore at my words
shred my flesh
made naked my

my anger 
for the enemy heads
of state
boiled to nothing
in the wake of his rage

jungle rot 
had sucked his bones
his skin fell
like the monsoon
his brain
in a cast in Leavenworth.

In the midst 
of genocide
he fell in love 
in Vietnam.
      “Her hair was
      long and dark— like yours”
            he said”
      “her eyes held the 
      sixth moon
      and when she miled
      the sky opened
      and I fell through.

      I would crawl
      in the tall grasses
      to her village

      and sleep the war
      away with her
      like a child on my thighs

      I did not know 
      of the raid

      and woke

      with her arm
      still clasping mine

      I could not find
      the rest of her

      so I buried her arm
      and marked my grave.”

We sat in silence
that mocks fools
that lifts us to the final language

his breath sapped by B-52’s
his eyes blinded by the blood of children
his hands bound to bayonets
his soul buried in a shallow grave

I stood amidst
his wreckage
and wept for myself.

so where is my 
political education? my
rhetoric answers to everything? my 
theory in practice? My
intensification of life in art?

the stone
the gravemarker
over an arm
in Vietnam.

Author: Janice Mirikitani

URL: http://poetry.newgreyhair.com/post/21855668144/jungle-rot-and-open-arms-janice-mirikitani


War is a word that does not encompass all the pain, death and bloodshed that surround it. This poem gives a visual idea of what goes on behind the scenes. Jungle rot sucking at the bones sounds absolutely disgusting- but it is not a lie. It is the whole and complete truth of what happened in Vietnam. He tried to sleep the war away, completely unaware of just how much worse everything would get and awoke with only the arm left. 


Although it is not pretty to hear or see, these images can at least allow readers to feel a sense of sympathy and remorse. And anger for being unable to find solutions peacefully. So although it is presented as a euphemism, the symbol it represents, the lesson it depicts makes up for it. 

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