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A Poem from “Monsoon Blues”

Elijah Imlay

I located a close friend, Jim Birdsall, nicknamed “Bird,” 25 years after the end of the war in Vietnam. He had the same nightmare every night until we reconnected. He wrote about them and asked me to turn them into a poem, out of which came healing and forgiveness. Here is the poem:

Bird Grieves for the Man They Killed

We wore the steel bracelets
of Montagnards—money
for that mountain people,
good fortune for us.  I held
my broken glasses together
with safety pins.  I wrote
the 23rd Psalm on my helmet’s
elastic band.  John Jim,
our ammo bearer, gave us
each a Navajo necklace,
turquoise and onyx
with a single white feather,
strung by his wife.  I took out
earphones every night
and listened to George Harrison
sing My Sweet Lord.  If only
we had not found a picture
of wife or girlfriend
in the billfold of the Vietnamese
we killed.  Easy to say
it wasn’t me who shot him,
but I still see his eyes
that never close and should
accuse me, yet don’t.
They’re looking at her photo.

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Elijah Imlay’s professional background is largely in the field of clinical social work in various settings. He is a published poet (Monsoon Blues, 2011) who served in the Army in 1971–72. Imlay is collaborating with a composer to create the first opera of the Vietnam War. He has facilitated writing workshops for active duty personnel and veterans at Walter Reed Hospital and at Fort Meyers in Virginia and in California. He teaches traditional methods of meditation and healing via the Sufis lineage of  Hazrat Inayat Khan and Pir Vilayat Khan.

Read more about Elijah Imlay

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21 June 2016

Tagged Under
The Cry, war, healing, forgiveness, trauma, PTSD,
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