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THE VETERAN

Page 41
Download PDF of this full issue: v49n1.pdf (28 MB)

<< 40. To The Brink Once Again42. Don't Thank Me For My Service >>

No Thanks

By Bonnie Caracciolo (reviewer)

[Printer-Friendly Version]

No Thanks
by rg cantalupo

(2016)

1969 was the year I graduated from high school. It was the year represented by two-thirds of the names on The Wall. It was the year Nixon promised us "peace with honor." This was also the year during which most of the collection of poems was written by rg cantalupo, (the pen name of Vietnam veteran, poet, author, and playwright Ross Canton). Reviewing poems is often an impossible task. Recalling school days in English Lit and being required to interpret the words and thoughts of another was daunting, to say the least. The best I can do is share a couple of the many poems in this powerful collection and try to humbly describe what a woman, a non-veteran was able to glean from them. I can tell you this—I had to set the book down more than once to clear the weight of sorrow from my chest.

The emotional, raw sharing of memories too painful to speak, perhaps, just as difficult to write no doubt. We imagine a young grunt dropped into the vat of roiling hell that was to become his personal nightmare. His buddies disappearing before his eyes – one by one – moved to remember them and their memories, their hopes and dreams. They all had nickname—as if to remain arm's length with the real flesh and blood human.

From the chapter The World -

Want

Baby San wanted horses
mostly, Mustangs and
Appaloosas, a small ranch
outside Tucson with
a good woman and a few sons.

Devil wanted his girlfriend
to take this morning's letter
back, for it to be the way
it was that last night
when she called out his name-

"Lonnie"- Lonnie, the name
he had before he left The
World, and wanted to finish
school and write about
our days here, this day

and the ones before, us
simmering Spaghetti C's
over heat tabs and drinking
our six free beers in the bunker's
dusty shade, the crackle of

green bullets igniting the air
outside—far away now as we
sat and drank and lied and
killed the day, each of us wanting what we knew

could not have, till it was
time to go and one by one
we stood up and stepped
through the blinding doorway
and disappeared into the light.

Reading these poems feels like stumbling into someone's private lair, a place protected by its foreign feel and yet, torn open like the familiar somehow. The author carries us from his first days in country to a year or so of his return. The pain growing, then the numbness setting in as he sees his buddies die. He alone—survives.

11/11/69

Devil?

Devil, can you hear me?

Spike? Lonnie? Baby San?
Can you hear me
Inside your dreams?

Can you see whose eyes
hold our faces
green shadows?

Can you see whose hands
ready to feed us
like dark seeds
to this valley?—

This is Bravo
Alpha Romero
to Dragon 2/4,
we're red—charging
and coming in.

Do you read me
Dragon 2/4?

We're red—charging
and coming in!

Bravo Alpha Romero
to Dragon 2/4?

Bravo Alpha Romero
to Dragon 2/4,
do you read me?

Come in Dragon 2/4,
Come in!
Come in!

Fire! Fire! Fire!
Blow it! Blow it! Blow it!

Ooh God!
Mama!

Ma ma.

Medic! Medic!
Damn you!

Leave that one
alone
And come help me
stop
Lonnie’s bleeding!

MEDIC!

Hold on, Lonnie.
Hold on!

You're alright,
You're alright
Just relax.

Just close your eyes
and think about
home--

Devil?
Spike?
Lonnie?
Baby San?

Is that you
crawling
toward me?

Is that your hand,
Devil, closing
round my heart?

Cantalupo/Canton carries us through the various "rites of passage" as he remembers his last day with his girlfriend lazing on a beach gazing at the passing clouds as if there wasn't a care in the world. Suddenly, like the half million men who were run through the grinder—that was the Vietnam War—their lives float between the real and the surreal.

This collection is a glimpse into the horrors of war and the blessings of camaraderie—desperate for sanity and survival—carrying one another across the rice paddies and through the jungles of a hell that no one should know. Untouchable like the reflection in a mirror. Surely combat veterans who found themselves in the War can relate to these fragile lines and messages. Those of us who were on the outside looking in share the sorrow and loss of a generation forever divided. Welcome home rg cantalupo/Ross Canton.

There is a singular emptiness that drifts in and out of every line. And the question remains:

The rice, the bamboo shoots,
the leaves of the rubber trees
grow green on our blood,
theirs, yet no one asks why.

Why?


Bonnie Caracciolo is a supporter of VVAW and a longtime thorn in the side of the Empire. She lives in Boston, MA.


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