Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Thursday, 20 May 2010



File:Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang Indra  Erawan.jpg

The god of war assured King Arsounas, “Do not be fooled by words. No life is taken. Know that no one was ever born, nor does anyone die.” In the violent mini-eternity of the warrior, combat is conducted according to a ritual formal as song: no one is ever born, no one can ever die. The left-handed rockabilly guitarist whose left arm was severed by an RPG round at Dak To has come back to life in a part of my body that died long before we started to patrol this part of the river. His life is mine though I never lived it. The violent backwash of the rotors is crimsoned by a fine aerosol spray of blood while a loudspeaker amplifies the goddess’s excited laughter.

File:Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang  detail01.jpg

File:Br Mus Durga.JPG


Phra Prang (central tower) of the Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Bangkok, Thailand, details showing Hindu war god Indra and three-headed mythological elephant Erawan (Airavita): photos by Manfred Werner, 2001

Hindu warrior goddess Durga ("the invincible", "one who can redeem in situations of utmost stress"): image by Redtigerxyz, 2007 (Asian Gallery, British Museum)

Skysoldiers of the 173rd Airborne, faces showing the stress of the Central Highlands campaign, Dak To, Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, November 1967: US Army photo


Curtis Roberts said...

I think I see what you’re doing here. Immense uncontrolled power rattles the human mind. Are birth and death an illusion or real? In the “mini-eternity of the warrior”, you might ask this but can’t know whether you’re thinking clearly or are simply very confused by the irremediable stress. (Peacetime hostages, e.g., kidnapping victims, feel the same way.) “His life is mine though I never lived it”. The visual procession of images down the page, moving from copious detail and heavenly iconography to American men staring straight on at you with dark eyes, their countenances pushing you back in your chair, makes you wish you had some sort of answer or summing up to offer. None of those I’ve previously essayed seem to work or hold true for very long.




Words for thought here, and in the Seferis --"mini-eternity" here too, not so violent (fortunately). . . .


silver edge of sun rising over blackness
of ridge, olive-sided flycatcher calling
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

principle of system, action
or possibility of such

equivalence, place of point
in motion, is physical

curved grey cloud above shadowed ridge,
wingspan of gull flapping toward point

TC said...

This poem (or whatever it is) is a frail remnant of yet another novel that wasn't. This attempt was called Sleepwalker and exhausted two years of my work life. The story centered on the pilot, crew chief and door gunner of an HU-40 helicopter in the Highlands of Vietnam in late 1967. They are blown away and return as revenants, but, not really.

The look on the faces of those Airborne dudes at Dak To tell the whole story better than I could ever have done.

The hidden Vedic element in the piece seems to have been the one thing to have ever interested anyone. Go figure. Over the years it has turned up in odd places like this. Also, even odder (??), on a number of gift shoppe-y or shall I say spammy-looking sites.

The Seferis poem below, which was posted as a segue from the preceding White Eyes post (Longfellow in the Lewis Carroll parody), made me think of this one now. Historical conjunctions perhaps exist, if only in the central tower of the cracked temple of the cerebrum.

TC said...

Odd nonexistent place.

Oh well,it purported to be a global network of Krishna conscious programmers, web designers and... as it now appears... ghosts (?).

Curtis Roberts said...

Thank you for resurrecting this. It gives me another chance (they come rarely enough) to say, "Well, I never." How do these internet oddities occur? At one point I set up a Google News Alert regarding a friend who moved to India (funny coincidence) whose political activities sometimes land her in the newspapers. Instead of news articles, Google semi-regularly sends me what seem like lengthy inter-stellar communications that seem entirely irrelevant until all of a sudden my friend's name pops up in an incomprehensible but intriguing and semi-plausible context. And then again. Oddly (and again coincidentally), I currently have some professional involvement with a person working under the name of "Kirtan Rabbi". (Lots of Kirtan mentions on the ghost site.) He's adapted the Kirtan form to Jewish music and Hebrew liturgy. He's a talented guy.

Anyway, I found the passage from Sleepwalker and the images extremely powerful and moving.

TC said...

Really appreciate that, Curtis.

One minute in the day of the 173rd Airborne on Hill 875 at Dak To is here.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, Tom. Have been reading sections of the Mahabharata, new Penguin John Smith translation, over the past few months and you have captured the essence. The proximity to nature, thus to death, which our culture is at such a remove from, adds to our horrific reaction to the Hindi POV; still it is all in the eyes of the soldiers, no matter what country or background. War, Death's close friend, makes us all equal in the end.


TC said...


Thanks for this extremely interesting comment, I have carried it over, along with a reply of sorts, here.