The Wall

Nov 10, 2017

Today’s poem is “The Wall” by Doug Rawlings. Doug was drafted in 1969 and served in the central highlands of Vietnam from July 1969 to August 1970.  He worked for 27 years at the University of Maine at Farmington.  In 1980, along with three other veterans, he began Veterans for Peace, now an international organization with 130 chapters and NGO status at the United Nations.

He writes: “back then [Veterans for Peace was]… a motley crew of about twenty we had our first "convention" in the basement of Woodford's Church in Portland.”  The group went on a field trip to Washington DC and visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On the bus ride back from that experience, he wrote the poem.  “Now,” he writes, “every Memorial Day we deliver letters to The Wall at 10:30am. We have delivered 371 letters so far. We encourage anyone who has been directly impacted by the American War in Viet Nam to write a letter and send it to me via email, and we will deliver the letter. We have letters from medics, from veterans who missed the war, from nurses, from conscientious objectors, from anti-war resisters, from former Weather Underground members, from guys like me, and from children and grandchildren of those killed in the war.

The Wall by Doug Rawlings

Descending into this declivity
dug into our nation’s capital
by the cloven hoof
of yet another one of our country’s
tropical wars

Slipping past the names of those
whose wounds
refuse to heal

Slipping past the panel where
my name would have been
could have been
perhaps should have been

Down to The Wall’s greatest depth
where the beginning meets the end
I kneel

Staring through my own reflection
beyond the names of those
who died so young

Knowing now that The Wall
has finally found me—
58,000 thousand-yard stares
have fixed on me
as if I were their Pole Star
as if I could guide their mute testimony
back into the world
as if I could connect all those dots
in the nighttime sky

As if I
could tell them
the reason why

Poem copyright © 2014 Doug Rawlings.
Reprinted from Orion Rising, Kellscraft Studio, 2014,
by permission of Doug Rawlings.