I just now wrote this piece as a component of a project for AP US History/AP English.
(The title "Driving Miss Emma" is a slang term for injecting morphine, a drug often abused by Vietnam war veterans.) Here's the reflection that goes with it: Reflection on Vietnam War Spoken Word Poem
I wanted this poem to capture a lot of things that characterized the aftermath of the Vietnam War like drug abuse, PTSD, the treatment of soldiers returning from war, etc., but most importantly I wanted to focus on silence and story telling.
I wanted to use juxtaposition between the silence described in the poem and the fact that it is a spoken word piece, I wanted to use that contrast to help further the listeners understanding. I also wanted to reflect Norman Bowkers silence with my grandfathers.
I used elements of O’Brien’s (The Things They Carried) story truth and happening truth, because I wrote this based very loosely on my grandfather even though he is the main focus of the piece. He wasn’t at My Lai or Saigon and he didn’t abuse drugs or things like that, but in a way, he did all those things without doing them; he suffered the aftermath of the war just like others, but differently. I also wanted to comment on the fact that you don’t have to be a soldier actively participating in something to feel the guilt or the shame of it (i.e. sharing the guilt).
I wanted it to be a story; my grandfather’s story without really being his story because it doesn’t matter what the date or the temperature was, it can be made up and still mean something. I tried to embed a lot of facts, dates, times, temperatures, etc., because I wanted them to be overbearing in the piece to comment on how many days there were in the war that some people don’t think about at all and others remember every detail of. It’s all about perspective. I wanted to add so many details, or verisimilitude, to make it feel powerful, because I can’t imagine living as a veteran after the war, and this is the closest way I could come to making it feel real.
(One judge at the slam competition last night gave me a 9.8/10 for this poem and it made me feel really great)