Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 5
Spring 2012

[One Poem]

Shelley Savren

Between Us

for Elijah, who enlisted to play in the army band after three draft notices, hoping to avoid Viet Nam
No matter how many stories you tell, how many poems 
you write about Viet Nam, the boys who became lost soldiers
crawling through jungles, returning from the bush 
with that wild and empty look, surprised to be alive, 
who found comfort in music and heroin, pure cut, 
about the mama-sans dutifully emptying barrels of GI shit, 
teenage prostitutes, farm girls really, and the line of GIs, 
about bunkers built on graves, ghosts rising in rice paddies beyond, 
endless guard duty patrolling the perimeter with a semi-automatic 
and too tight boots, listening for any sound in the wire, 
the silence of an ammo dump with enough TNT to blow a small village, 
about a boy crossing a swamp on a water buffalo, 
War Dog who guarded you, who never barked, the comfort of his growl, 
his silent pant as you searched the northern sky to find home;
no matter how many times you describe the starkness of the land 
after a bomb, the 130 degree heat that tugged at your skin, 
the relentless monsoon as if it were trying to wash the war away, 
the absurdity of soldiers as bandsmen preparing for a concert 
that would never be played, marching through potholes, 
transported in a giant helicopter with a hatch that severed a leg once, 
helicopters that could be shot down every single time; 
no matter how many words you use to evoke those images,
I can only listen as your tongue rolls out each syllable, 
forming landscapes where a young soldier, harnessed to a rifle 
and a clarinet, steps deliberately, searching for the reason 
he was yanked out of school, then returned to a place
where life somehow continued, where no one, nothing waited, 
as if that boy would never return, and he never really did.


End Bug Issue 5

Shelley Savren’s

Photo of Shelley Savren

Books include The Common Fire (Red Hen Press, 2004) and The Wild Shine of Oranges (Tebot Bach, forthcoming, fall 2012).

She holds an M.F.A. from Antioch University L.A., and has received nine California Arts Council grants, three National Endowment for the Arts regional grants, five City of Ventura fellowships, the 1994 John David Johnson Memorial Poetry Award, and a Pushcart Prize nomination. She’s an English Professor at Oxnard College.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury