Whitman: the Wall (Poem)

James SchminckeUncategorized

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC

I know this ground. I walked here once before,
alive. A septic smell, still. In this place,
tents, and my nursing, all through ’64.
Or call it mothering. I looked in the face
of dying boy after boy. But now this black
winged wall, and other ghosts, their strange words:
Da Nang, Khe Sanh. But I know soldiers’ talk.
And these dates. Sixteen years? Such a long war.
With the sun now come the living. A stream,
as if to board a ferry. Alone, or two,
a family, and all–they’re reading the names.
Just that. America’s great reading lesson.
I can be at home here. Mingle. Listen.
And lean against the wall, waiting for you.

— Philip Dacey


Philip Dacey’s website can be found at www.philipdacey.com. | Interview in PDF (via the Quarterly Review)

Collected from Beltway Poetry Quarterly
Published in Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 2006.