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April 11, 2013
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Lancaster Pennsylvania.
July 3rd, 1978.
Five pm.
Eighty-two degrees outside.
Driving sixty eight mph down Millersville road
past miles of cornfields
And everything is silent.
Except the faint scream of wind escaping through the cracked driver side window
and the dull thud of tire treading on the newly paved road.
He is
trying to understand,
while trying not to think,
while thinking too much,
while being silent.
And suddenly its
March of 1968
And Calley is calling
“kill them all dead”.
And he sees his daughter,
her Agent Orange colored curls
clinging to her face like napalm sticks to melting bodies;
her eyes burning brighter than Hanoi and Haiphong on December 18th, 1972.
He begins to cry
because its still
July 3rd, 1978,
Five pm, and
eighty-two degrees outside.
But in his mind it will always be March of 1968
or December of 1972,
because for him the war is still being fought;
monks and Morrison still burning;
Saigon is still screaming
like it was on April 30, 1975,
but everyone else just hears silence.
My grandfather has every day of the Vietnam War
tattooed on his body
so whenever somebody asks the question:
“What’s wrong?”
he can simply lift up his calloused hands
to their face
and remain silent.
Because the silent majority doesn’t really want to hear
a tour of duties worth of realities.
So instead he drives down Millersville road,
some morphine in his blood stream,
trying to forget thirty years,
ten thousand nine hundred and fifty days.
Everyday another bombing,
another hundred dead.
Just another everyday.
Something people don’t remember,
but my grandfather can’t forget.
Mother Teresa once said
“God is a friend of silence”,
but my grandfather found no
angels in his unspoken words,
just another thousand truths
that the bible never spoke of.
No God, no glory, just guts and guns.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau equated silence to the “image of death”.
The image so many little Vietnamese boys and girls saw instead of soldiers.
The image of the soldier my grandfather saw in the mirror.
The image of death.
The embodiment of death.
The bodies of boys in burning black pajamas.
The reason my grandfather can’t sleep at night.
The reason thousands of others can’t sleep at night.
The reason I mourn for
every single silence that has been hung over something remarkable.
See my grandfather is anything but death.
He is remarkable.
He is suffering.
He is the smell of summer strawberries,
and the memory of a young boy
born on a farm in Lancaster Pennsylvania,
on July 14th, 1943,
to a Mennonite mother
and an alcoholic father.
I could describe his life with thousands verisimilitudes,
just like every other tin soldier forced to fight in 1968.
Just like every other soldier who was everything besides a fighter.
I have inherited his stories
and I could tell them all
to anybody who would listen.
Maybe then,
I could finally break the silence.
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)
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-05-28
~PeppermintPictures captures the aftereffects of the Vietnam War in the slam piece Grandfather. ( Suggested by homunculus888 and Featured by neurotype )
:iconpomohippie7:
pomohippie7 Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013   Writer
Your wonderful work has been showcased here: fav.me/d707vjx
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:iconpeppermintpictures:
PeppermintPictures Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much! And have a wonderful New Year :) 
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:iconpomohippie7:
pomohippie7 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014   Writer
You're very welcome! :heart: I hope your New Year's is wonderful as well! :)
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:iconxnorthwindx:
xNorthwindx Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is really something. Like you, my grandfather also served in Vietnam. He was drafted and served 2 or 3 years over there. He doesn't talk about it much, all he ever really said is that he drove APCs (Armored Personnel carriers) and that he was a private. But other than that, he doesn't like to talk about it. I will say he is more open than some other Vietnam vets, and thankfully (as far as I know) he didn't come back with PTSD. I know he was proud to serve his country, even though the we Americans hated them when they came home. I'm glad we support our troops now. My brother is in the Army, and is going to be deployed to Afganistan next year. Its nice to see random people come up and thank him for his service. 

Anyway, this is a really good poem. You really nailed it.
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:iconpeppermintpictures:
PeppermintPictures Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
It makes me so happy to know that you can relate to this piece. Both your grandfather and your brother sound like fantastic and strong people. It takes a lot to risk your life for something you believe in. 

Thank you so much :)
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:iconcristinewakesuphappy:
cristinewakesuphappy Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
:+fav:


i hope you don't mind my humble feature:
your lovely piece is handpicked.


thank you,

:bow:
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:iconpeppermintpictures:
PeppermintPictures Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Wow, thank you!
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:icon6blackrose6:
6blackrose6 Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2013
Beautiful. I read lately a lot about Pstd and war and thought about how a countries fate can influence generations for decades after the war has ended. I think you found a great way to pick up such thoughts and feelings in your poem.
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:iconpeppermintpictures:
PeppermintPictures Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much!
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:iconshadowedacolyte:
ShadowedAcolyte Featured By Owner May 28, 2013
This is quite solid--lots going on here, all of it evocative and sometimes gripping. "tour of duties worth of realities" is an excellent line--that will stick.
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