I can’t believe my eyes. On my computer screen is a well
appointed virtual sales room with stylish furniture highlighting a
painting, designed to show me how well it would underscore the
elegance of my home. The painting is Avatar, by Henry Lintott,
painted in 1916. Four angelic figures bear upward the body of a
soldier struck down in the Great War. It is said that the painting
brought great peace to British poet and infantryman Wilfred
Owens who came to visit it often in 1918 during his recuperation
from battle shock in Craiglockhart hospital nearby. This was just
before he was declared healed, and sent back to the front. Owen
was killed in the trenches, one week before Armistice was
declared. I think of Marines, dying in the Vietnamese mud, dying
before me on my own evacuation flight, dying later in the VA
hospitals, and sometimes later still, dying at home by their own
“Do you believe in ghosts?” The child looks at me for truth. I
can speak to the fears, but not to the question, for I know some
ghosts too well. I see them emerge from behind parked cars.
Whole families follow me from tunnels of Vinh Moc. They call
to me at night from free-fire zones, stranded on jungled
beaches, from faces I never saw. Their shadows reach for me
from stretchers and drip bags, and piles of too-late bandages.
Prescribed rituals and beliefs, incense burnings and magic
spells: all hollow songs against darkness
These poems first appeared in Wordpeace.
Kendall Johnson served with the US Navy in Vietnam. He is a painter, and author of Fireflies Against Darkness (Arroyo Seco Press, 2021), Black Box Poetics (Bamboo Dart Press, 2020), and Chaos & Ash (Pelekinesis, 2019). His catalogued collection of desert paintings and cherita poems Melting Into Air (Sasse Museum of Art) is forthcoming.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
The Ekphrastic Review
Join us on Facebook: