Truth and Other Lies · pris campbell
These fierce poems bleed love and loss, knotted with a personal reckoning of a “Vietnam of the soul” shared with a vanished husband whom neither divorce nor death can finally erase. Pris Campbell cuts herself to the quick and keeps going. Her wounds become a blessing in art, a gift to us all.
— Jeff Weddle, winner of the Eudora Welty Prize
His love letters arrive from Vietnam,
not one by one like teardrops,
but in bundles, like heavy rainfall,
and so I race home from work
breathlessly to see if today
is Christmas yet.
I add new letters to the other letters
to read and reread, the only part
of him I can touch, his body
committed to the war whore.
Truth and Other Lies
Huddled under Nam’s deepening shadow
we drank too much wine,
ate burnt chicken, neglected
while wading the Hawaiian surf.
We strung shells into necklaces,
talismans for our husbands to take back to war,
promised friendships stretching to forever,
but it’s been years now since we spoke.
I fall dizzily to ground
ear the tremor of grass blades,
hear old laughter and bare feet
sprinting across gray sand,
see youthful hands grasping for
futures never meant to be held tight.
My newly dead
from Vietnam sit neatly
in a box in the chest
at bed’s end.
I don’t touch them.
I can’t toss them.
I imagine him
in his ship’s cabin
at night, my photo
pulled out, writing,
passing the time
between fuel pumps
to shore, imagining
our marriage, a baby…
(I especially don’t read those).
When the ship got shelled
up-river after an oil line
broke he was shocked,
as if he had forgotten
the point of war was to kill,
but two more years after, when he
and his brother laughed
about ‘gooks’, live Cong tossed
like yesterday’s trash,
the fraggings – the sort
of laughter that hides
a hole in the heart,
he assured me repeatedly
no, the war didn’t affect
him at all.
About the Author
The poems of Pris Campbell have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including PoetsArtists, Nixes Mate, Rusty Truck, Bicycle Review, Chiron Review, Octopus Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, and Outlaw Poetry. The Small Press has published eight collections of her poetry and Clemson University Press, a collaboration with Scott Owens. My Southern Childhood, from Nixes Mate is her most recent book. A former Clinical Psychologist, sailor and bicyclist until sidelined by ME/CFS in 1990, she makes her home with her current husband in the Greater West Palm Beach, Florida.
Copyright © 2022 Pris Campbell
Cover design by d’Entremont
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