I struggle with contemporary war poetry. It either seems like imagined images from a distance, or trite nonsense. Jack Henry, the American Poet, has written the best contemporary war poem I have read for some time:
a short Vietnamese lady chats me up
as she cleans my feet,
trims the nails,
finally asks if i want a polish
.i say number 88,
she smiles and says,i like that one too.
we talk about her childhood
in Da Nang province and growing up in a small village
with brothers and sisters,
many cousins, many aunts.
she expresses sorrow about Afghanistan
and i say nothing,
the old, white middle-classed male
frozen in place.
and i smile, faintly,
suddenlyaware of my place,
Karen’s and various womenstare briefly
the giant man with sparkly blood red finger- and toenails
an anomaly in any situation, shuffles out the front door.
i sit at home, watch Afghanistan collapse,
watch men, women, and children fleefor their lives,
watch people fall to their deaths
from the sides of American transport planes.from under my sink i retrieve a bottle ofnail polish remover,
lock the front door,
watch ghosts hover nearby,
as the imageson my television