August 29, 2014
- Oil on Ampersand Gessobord
- 11″ x 14″
- In a private collection
This painting and another painting titled “Vietnam Warriors” have me thinking about war and the hell that it is. Here sit four youths in a bomb crater surrounded by a splintered forest during a day of fighting. Despite the devastation, Carl Bennett found beauty in the place expressed in this poem, “Vietnamese Morning”.
Before war starts
In early morning
The land is breath taking.
The low, blazing, ruby sun
Melts the night-shadow pools
Creating an ethereal appearance.
Each miniature house and tree
Sprouts its, long, thin shadow
Stretching long on dewy ground.
The countryside is panoramic maze,
Jungle, hamlets, hills and waterways,
Bomb-craters, paddies, broken-backed bridges.
Rice fields glow sky-sheens,
Flat, calm, mirrored lakes
Reflect the morning peace.
The patchwork quilted earth,
Slashed by snaking tree-lines,
Slumbers in dawn’s blue light.
Sharp, rugged mountain peaks
Sleep in a soft rolling blanket
Of clinging, slippery, misty fog.
Effortlessly, languidly, it flows
Shyly spreading wispy tentacles out
To embrace the earth with velvet arms.
Decision makers in our government were not satisfied with destroying land and people one bomb at a time, but resorted to the defoliating herbicide, Agent Orange. Their poor judgment destroyed the lives of the local folks, soldiers and the place. In “Young Men” Curt Bennett writes about being a Vietnam soldier:
In quiet dignity they trudge
With only the slurping sounds
Of jungle boots sucking mud
As they carry their burden
Of expendable youth at war.
There is a poise about them,
A quality not found in peers,
A bearing common only
To young men in combat.
There is a stoic resignation,
A façade of wary acceptance,
A weariness in their movements
As they slowly walk the war.
Struggling with all its elements,
And inside, struggling with themselves,
For just below the surface,
They keep the well-known secret,
The haunting cowardice common to all.
Twenty-four hours a day they walk the line,
Living up to the reputation,
Assuming the swagger, the hard line,
Their casual indifference to death
That masks that deep seeded fear of dying,
The overwhelming urge to break and run,
The paralyzing instinct to freeze or hide!
Praying silently in secret
That whatever happens they won’t look bad.
And that is why they are at war,
Where they would rather be
Then face the shame of not going,
Of being accused of not having “it”,
To uphold that fragile concept of honor,
With their reputations on the line.
And they proudly carry their reputations,
For that is all that remains of their dignity,
Even if it means they must die for it.
They shuffled down in noiseless file,
Gaunt apparitions whose hollow eyes
Stare blankly out from sunken sockets,
Whose swollen tongues crack scaled lips,
Scab sores ooze pus and swarming flies,
Through dirty, soiled flak jackets.
Assholes flame dysentery, brown fluid trickles
The crouchless trousers where jungle rot
Reddens, chafes and burns with each step.
Ripped jungle boots ring-bleached salt-sweat
Through rotting socks encasing fungus feet
They endlessly plod, gray ghosts of dawn.
Silently they pass, eternal warriors
Towards their unknown, to their death and hell.
Whispering shadows blending with the foggy light
In the ancient ritual of men marching to battle,
Quietly they slide away merging in the bush,
Disappearing into the mist of time.
Copyright, Curt Bennett
Today, many leaders in the US government have forsaken statesmanship for being party politicians, acting on behalf of the party funders rather than to the benefit of the citizenry, the land, the water, the earth as a whole. The big picture which includes the interrelationship of earth’s species and systems is ignored. So we must do what we can, consume less, recycle, grow a garden, plant a tree, study the night sky, breathe deeply, make friends, make peace in our time.