Poetry in Motion by W. D. Ehrhart

Poetry in Motion

So my buddies and I are eating a pizza
in a picnic pavilion in a public park
in Bridgeton, New Jersey, and this guy
in a Bridgeton Municipal pick-up truck
pulls up and stops, gets out, pulls
the top off a trash barrel next to us,
pulls out a loaded trash bag, ties it shut,
and without even looking, throws it
back over his shoulder one-handed
twenty feet into the truck bed.
Clunk. Perfect. Beautiful.

*

W. D. Ehrhart is an ex-Marine sergeant and veteran of the American War in Vietnam. His latest book is Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company.

The Longest Night of My Life by W. D. Ehrhart

The Longest Night of My Life

We’d been humping the boonies up by the DMZ
for a couple of weeks. November 1967.
Hard work. And every night a new fighting hole.
And the one-man poncho tent.

This night, we were on the side of a hill.
I didn’t bother to trench my tent. It wasn’t
raining. And the soil farther south had never
needed that. And I was tired.

And fell asleep fast. But I woke up later
to find myself in the midst of a raging river
cascading down the hillside. It was raining.
And the soil up here absorbed nothing.

Raining hard. Cold in November.
Me already utterly soaked. Teeth chattering.
No dry clothes. No place dry. Middle of nowhere.
Sunrise hours away. Five? Maybe six.

*

W. D. Ehrhart is an ex-Marine sergeant and veteran of the American War in Vietnam. His latest book is Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company.

God, Guns & Ginny by W. D. Ehrhart

God, Guns & Ginny

Well, of course it was righteous.
Bear any burden, pay any price,
what you could do for your country.
Godless communists, after all.
You may have been only seventeen,
but you’d seen them already
in Hungary, Cuba, Berlin.
Something had to be done,
and someone would have to do it.

There is something about a thatched-roof
hut in the middle of rice fields, burning,
a mortally wounded woman softly
keening, child dead in her arms,
that can’t be blamed on Chairman Mao,
Castro, Lenin, or Das Kapital.
Heavy artillery flattened that home.
Ours. Our guns did that.

Long before I reached my thirteen months,
I discovered I had nothing to cling to
but a girl back home. A young girl.
Still in high school. Watching her friends
go out on dates, having fun, enjoying
all of the things that seniors do
for the last exuberant time together.
She must have agonized for months
before she sent me that final letter.
I hope she’s had a nice life. I mean it.

*

W. D. Ehrhart is an ex-Marine sergeant and veteran of the American War in Vietnam. His latest book is Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company.