Poems Against Wars

On Being Asked to Write a Poem Against the War in Vietnam

Well I have and in fact
more than one
and I’ll tell you this too

I wrote one against
Algeria that nightmare
and another against

Korea and another
against the one
I was in

and I don’t remember
how many against
the three

when I was a boy
Abyssinia Spain
and Harlan County

and not one
breath was restored
to one

shattered throat
mans womans or childs
not one not

but death went on
and on never looking aside

except now and then
with a furtive half-smile
to make sure I was noticing.

Hayden Carruth

Love Wins

7 comments on “Poems Against Wars

  1. shoreacres says:

    Well. From his bio, it seems not all the wars Carruth experienced were external.

    On a second reading, I got caught by “Harlan County”, and went looking. I remember, now. My parents’ best friends lived in western Kentucky, where they kept an acreage. The man worked in the mines. We often visited, and as I got older, I’d sit at the table and listen to the conversations about the union strife and life in the mines. Harlan County came up now and then – but I didn’t know about the blood feuds.


    • Bill says:

      Harlan County USA is an interesting documentary looking at the strike there in the 1970s. Of course the Coal War that Carruth remembered from his childhood was much earlier and much bloodier. But the film touches on some things from those days and there were still folks around who lived through them.

      Kentucky is a fascinating place. Eastern Kentucky and central/western Kentucky are like whole different worlds.


  2. One of my friends and blogging buddies is from Eastern Kentucky and his father, a miner, was very active in the union. He has some interesting stories to tell.

    I found this poem to be very powerful. I love the form it took and how he told us his story. Very moving and even ominous. Well-done.


  3. Bill says:

    I really like it too. I discovered the poem in Wendell Berry’s essay “A Poem of Difficult Hope.” I’ve tried this morning (unsucessfully) to find an online link to that essay, as I’m sure you would enjoy it. It’s in the collection What Are People For?, which I highly recommend if you ever run across a copy.


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