Vietnam Epic Treatment

By Donald Revell b. 1954 Donald Revell
It doesn’t matter
A damn what’s playing—
In the dead of winter
You go, days of 1978—
79, and we went
Because the soldiers were beautiful
And doomed as Asian jungles
Kept afire Christ-like
In the hopeless war
I did not go to in the end
Because it ended.
 
The 20th century?
It was a war
Between peasants on the one side,
Hallucinations on the other.
A peasant is a fire that burns
But is not consumed.
His movie never ends.
It will be beautiful
Every winter of our lives, my love,
As Christ crushes fire into his wounds
And the wounds are a jungle.
Equally, no matter when their movies end,
Hallucinations destroy the destroyers.
That’s all.
There has never been a President of the United States.
 
And the 21st century?
Hallucination vs. hallucination
In cold battle, in dubious battle,
No battle at all because the peasants
Have gone away far
Into the lost traveler’s dream,
Into a passage from Homer,
A woodcutter’s hillside
Peacetime superstition movie.
 
On a cold night, Hector.
On a cold night, Achilles.
Around the savage and the maniac
The woodcutter draws a ring of fire.
It burns all winter long.
He never tires of it
And for good reason:
Every face of the flames is doomed and beautiful;
Every spark that shoots out into the freezing air
Is God’s truth
Given us all over again
In the bitter weather of men’s
Hallucinations. There has never been
A President of the United States.
There has never been a just war.
There has never been any life
Beyond this circle of firelight
Until now if now is no dream but an Asia.

Donald Revell, “Vietnam Epic Treatment” in There Are Three © 1992 by Donald Revell and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: There Are Three (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

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Poet Donald Revell b. 1954

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Religion, Christianity, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Donald  Revell

Biography

Born in the Bronx, Donald Revell received his PhD at SUNY Buffalo and is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, translations, and essays. Steeped in the work of Henry David Thoreau and William Carlos Williams, Revell’s poetry is “seriously Christian but not doctrinaire, mystical without setting intellect aside, angry over political matters without ever growing stale or shrill, and more often joyful than any other . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Christianity, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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