Ghost Wars

Vince Gotera

Cedar Falls, Iowa: Final Thursday Press, 2003
(ISBN: 1-0-9742764-0-5)



From the Editor of Final Thursday Press . . .

As a Vietnam era veteran, as well as the grandson, son, and brother of combat veterans, poet Vince Gotera writes from experience about the contradictory psychological demands made of soldiers. In Ghost Wars men in combat exist in the moment, capturing and being captured by the power of violence. But the individuals of war's aftermath live with the implications of their actions, struggling with an always-present past as they endeavor to carve out moments of understanding, of forgiveness, and of love.

-- Jim O'Loughlin

Poems from Ghost Wars . . .


based on a story in
National Geographic
(August 1995)
"Mother, may we please open that tin?"
four-year-old Akiko asked before breakfast.
"No, dear, we must save the tangerines,"

Shima sighed. "Akiko, you know we're keeping
our canned food in case the bombers attack.
You've asked May we please open that tin?

every morning for a week." Akiko grinned
and slipped into Shima's open arms for a quick
embrace. "Yes, we must save the tangerines."

They turned to slice radish leaves, stir soybeans.
Above, Enola Gay, Little Boy. Rice cooking.
Some mother's son says, "Please open the bomb

bay doors." Their home implodes. Shima and
her three other daughters never find Akiko.
Since then, No, we must save the tangerines

has resounded each morning in Shima's mind.
Daily, she recalls Hiroshima, Nagasaki --
kneels at her bedroom altar, offers an open tin
of tangerines. To save lost Akiko. Save Japan.



after Yusef Komunyakaa's
"Ode to the Maggot"
Durga, black and red goddess
of scars and burnished brass
sword blades, your four bloody
arms pinwheel and intertwine

with seven serpents. In your honor,
Shiva's sublime wedded one,
we wade naked into the Ganges,
into the quagmire of Flanders

Field, Iwo Jima, Chosin, My Lai,
Kuwait. On TV, an Iraqi soldier
exits his bunker to piss and meets
a "smart" bomb. Kali, you laugh

at our antics. Blood-red eyes flash
like rubies. Whether by chicken
bone or air-to-ground missile, we all
will grace your necklace of skulls.

Praise for Ghost Wars . . .

Lively, compassionate, and intelligent, the poems of Ghost Wars are a necessary balm for our uncertain national psyche. If, as Audre Lorde said, poetry is not a luxury, Vince's poems in Ghost Wars actively and satisfyingly prove her statement's truth. With acuity of vision and sound, he's a poet able to make us see, sense and know all the difficult wars we usually deny.

-- Allison Joseph

The poems in Ghost Wars are the tickers off the bottom of CNN's screen pushing out of the TV and flourishing like vines in our living rooms. Whether Gotera is describing the Philippine-American War, Vietnam, World War II, our Gulf Wars, or children playing war as kids, he honors both the horrific and the moments of grace.

-- Denise Duhamel

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Created by Vince Gotera on 26 September 2003.