• Grant Handgis

Raymond Keen ~ Poet

Poem “Doofus Ensign Comes to Terms with the War”

(with the Aid of a Little Hash)

The smoky haze

in the NeuroPsychiatry hut

at 1st Med Battalion

would not have been overlooked

in broad daylight.

But now an ensign psychologist

sits alone there

late in Da Nang’s night,

experiencing a death of ego

with the aid of a little hash.

He wonders,

“Because there is

no separation from me

and what I see,

can psychosis be

more real than sanity?

The ensign remembers

what Marine Corporal Pruett

told him early that morning,

the story of shooting someone

who was running away

in black pajamas

at a distance of 300 yards

(that’s about a quarter of a click)

in broad daylight,

As Corporal Pruett approached

the black-pajama figure

lying on the ground,

he saw a woman

gasped for air,

the sound of blood

gurgling in her throat,

preventing her from crying out.

He listened

to the soft hissing sound

coming from the hole

in the woman’s chest,

as a pink froth

formed around the wound,

the black pajamas

now wet and sticky

with the woman’s red blood,

drying fast in the afternoon sun,

drying fast in broad daylight.

Now the hashish has created

a haven of light around

the event. The ensign remembers

hearing Corporal Pruett ask,

“What will my mother say

when I tell her I shot a woman?

Should I tell her, Doc?

Do you think she can forgive me?”

Corporal Pruett confessed,

“I am changing.

Every day I change.

Sometimes it seems

like years in one day

from the things I have seen

and heard and felt.”

The ensign continues to sit alone

in the hazy Da Nang night.

If now he begins to understand the war,

it is the hash that allows him to weep.

It is still very dark outside

but the ensign is sure

he is weeping

in broad daylight.

It is the hash that allows him to weep.

Copyright (1967-2012)

This poem exemplifies the ambiguous feelings and raw emotions held, over the Viet Nam war, from the perspective of many Viet Nam veterans. A conflict, where one was faced with acting in manners that contradicted one’s upbringing and moral compass. PTSD is often born of this confused inner rage of having been forced to choose an odious action, of two. In the context of some fierce battles and brutal losses on both sides. Thus constitutes the double-bind condition, when either choice is personally detrimental, and destructive.

I find this poem an elegant explanation of emotional conflict as a byproduct of war, as well as one of the means utilized in dealing with said emotional conflict. A byproduct of a host country to some of the finest cannabinoid products in the world, cheap and readily available. A perfect elixir as salve for the bleeding heart and wounded soul.

From the personal bio of the author, it can be inferred that the weeping Ensign might just be he, although the reader has no real way of knowing from this one piece. It would, however, be an exemplary question for an interview.


g. Michael Handgis Photography


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