In Memoriam … A Vietnam Poet

Today was Memorial Day in the U.S. and we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the passing of Steve Mason. His name may not be familiar to many fans of contemporary poetry, but his dedication to giving a voice to those who survived the Vietnam War — and preserving the legacy of the those who did not — remains an inspiring example of the power of the written word. Considered the “poet laureate of Vietnam veterans” Mason often put the unimaginable into words — forming a bridge of communication for families trying to heal and understand. One of Mason’s poems was read at the Vietnam Wall dedication in 1984. Although he may not have been a prize-winning poet in more traditional circles, Mason’s writing offered a glimpse into a world many are still desperately trying to understand and reminds us all that the efforts of a “lay poet” can be a powerful force. Steve Mason was 65. You can read more here.

2 Responses

  1. In Honor of Steve Mason
    In Honor of Steve Mason (Revision)

    I wrote this in Honor of Steve Mason when he was still alive.
    Hope the readers will like this. I wish I’d mailed it to him then.

    “In Honor of: Steve Mason, Vietnam Poet, September 1989:
    ESPRIT DE CORPS-VIETNAM”

    By Steve Plonk

    “Semper Fi” some said as they died,
    They died in the armed forces ’cause of fate,
    ‘Cause the hour was getting late,
    ‘Cause Charlie’s sights were higher
    Then those of ‘friendly fire’,
    They died for reasons unknown,
    They died ’cause their minds were blown,
    They died of scrapnel wounds,
    They died diseased during monsoons…

    We know some may be missing,
    Their wives upon others lips are kissing,
    Dead with tank tracks across their backs,
    Under primieval jungle in sleeping sacks.
    They died from mine explosions,
    From booby trap implosions,
    From pits with poisonous “pungi” stakes
    From dengue fever blotches and shakes,
    From yaws jungle rot on lymph nodes,
    From grenades thrown in bunker abodes.

    Died on “hamburger hill” after the 49th kill,
    Died at Khe Sanh, it was God’s will,
    Died in Pleiku, after saving twelve friends,
    Died in the ocean from jet crash bends.
    Crashed in the jungle hidden from view,
    To be unearthed in the year 1992.
    So many died, and we haven’t a clue,
    Where the faith came from, that’s true,
    For me, for you, they died, we’re told,
    Some died foolhardy, some died bold.

    They all died many years ago,
    Our memories are written to show
    Devotion to the ones we know,
    Respect for the faith with which they grew,
    They died in war, but many stayed alive,
    We helped the orphans, widows, friends tears now dried.
    -Page Two-

    Time healed many hurts and eases pain,
    But some still remember death’s driving rain,
    When buddies fell shredded all around them,
    Or bodies floating in in the rivers which drowned them.

    They lived “Esprit de Corps” as French may say,
    Some said “Semper Fi” as they passed away.
    Heard it said when they died at that time,
    That a “grunt” becomes part of the “long gray line”,
    Used a little humor to write this verse,
    These muse lines some may curse,
    Been silent a-plenty, not said a word,
    But now, kind folks, may my voice be heard.

  2. Soldier’s Heavy BrowI’m sorry
    Soldier’s Heavy Brow

    I’m sorry that I did not know your friend Steve. I wrote this in honor of my father who fought in WWII, but it can be and is reflective of all our soldiers past and present…

    SOLDIER’S HEAVY BROW

    Like a soldier’s heavy brow,
    I wear my scars
    upon my face
    Of all the wars
    which un-erased

    The past
    I kept
    deep inside

    Inside
    are where my scars did lie
    Lie down inside
    a deep hiding place
    Which never
    shall be un-erased

    My childhood past,
    ten years did last
    Lasting memories do remain

    Like a soldier’s heavy brow
    Lasting past
    of yesterday’s pain

    Like a soldier’s heavy brow
    Wars which un-erased

    Into battle once again,
    I grab my gun
    which was my friend

    Marching onward
    to the shore,
    where I lay my heavy brow

    Onward to my destiny flee,
    like a soldier
    I will be!

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