Every stinking poem and I think,"This will be the one..this is BOUND to be the ONE!..."; but, of course, it's not. Not the one to 'fix' it, nor the one to kill it; not the one to make it go away. (Go Away...)

Christ!, Pasteur finally found the rabies vaccine, Edison the light bulb! Einstein twiddled with relativity 'til he got it...reasonably right! But I can't find an antidote that lasts!

Oh, some poems last for a while; Heck! I can go several days, sometimes a week or two after a good poem, a good story. But none of them last much beyond that. Empirically speaking, I can prove that poetry as a cure for war memories...doesn't work. At least not forever. At least not yet.

Maybe it was my training in science that made me think that if I rounded up enough facts and factors, studied the war thoroughly enough, came to 'understand' it, why then I could figure out the State Equation of post traumatic stress. Knowing, understanding, calculating and codifying it would cure it. Hell, it worked for Newton and NASA!

Science didn't work though...not for VietNam...Hell, not even for the U.S. IN VietNam! Bad dreams, guilt, and plain old depression won't succumb to equations, no matter how many factors are understood. Hell, I know WHY I have the dreams and flashes, I'm just looking for the antidote...and UNDERSTANDING the war ain't it.

It's like Jeckel and Hyde, only the VietNam-potion won't wear off and so some of us vets are Hyde forever. Or maybe like adult onset diabetes; and now we need some sort of insulin every once in a while...forever. The best insulin I've found so far is poetry. But... THE poem? The one that cures it? I haven't found that one yet.

Writing poems, though, works the best so far; that's why I keep doing it. Take two verses and call me in the morning... An aspirin couplet for a flashback headache. Or a free verse lyric if it's really bad. But don't wait too long. If you wait 'til it builds up too much then you get sappy, sentimental and write crap that 'whines'. Read it the next morning and you want to throw up.

I watch out for the 'migraine aura' of a bad flashback coming, feel it crawling toward me, hear that extra sensitive "whop - whop - whop" of chopper blades. When that happens, I've got myself trained to write it out and ride it out. Therapeutic poetry composition...a VietVet's version of agressive finger-painting. Haldol written in iambic pentameter. Works for me...mostly. Some better than others.

"Gee, Doc, you mean this PTS growth in my head is permanent!?"
"Here, Son, take this extra powerful quatrain...and if that don't last, read some Wilfred Owen...I'll write you out a lifetime prescription."

Addicted to poetry for life...

A poem a day keeps the shakes away.

(That one didn't last long enough to finish writing it.)

Maybe this:

---------------------------------------------- With lyric rhyme and blank free verse, we sing of murder and much worse. We write so we won't have to dream, we write so we won't have to scream. ----------------------------------------------

Not much better...

Oh Well...maybe it'll get me thru the night...

Copyright © 1996 J.M.Hopkins, all rights reserved