Apparition of the Exile

By Bruce Weigl b. 1949 Bruce Weigl
There was another life of cool summer mornings, the dogwood air and the slag stink so gray like our monsoon which we loved for the rain and cool wind until the rot came into us. And I remember the boys we were the evening of our departure, our mothers waving through the train’s black pluming exhaust; they were not proud in their tears of our leaving, so don’t tell me to shut up about the war or I might pull something from my head, from my head, from my head that you wouldn’t want to see and whoever the people are might be offended.

From the green country you reconstruct in your brain, from the rubble and stink of your occupation, there is no moving out. A sweet boy who got drunk and brave on our long ride into the State draws a maze every day on white paper, precisely in his room of years as if you could walk into it. All day he draws and imagines his platoon will return from the burning river where he sent them sixteen years ago into fire. He can’t stop seeing the line of trees explode in white phosphorous blossoms and the liftship sent for them spinning uncontrollably beyond hope into the Citadel wall. Only his mother comes these days, drying the fruit in her apron or singing the cup of hot tea into his fingers which, like barbed wire, web the air.

Bruce Weigl, “Apparition of the Exile” from Archaeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1999 by Bruce Weigl. Reprinted with the permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.,

Source: Archeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems (Grove/Atlantic Inc., 1999)

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Poet Bruce Weigl b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects War & Conflict, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Prose Poem


Soon after turning eighteen, Bruce Weigl enlisted in the Army and served in Vietnam for one year, beginning in December 1967. He was awarded the Bronze Star and returned to his hometown of Lorain, Ohio, where he enrolled in Lorain County Community College. As Weigl states in his best-selling prose memoir, The Circle of Hanh (2000), “The paradox of my life as a writer is that the war ruined my life and in return gave me my . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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