Bill Shields is a damn fine poet, Vietnam veteran and one of my fucking favourite writers of all time. He moves me, inspires me and has been a measuring stick of my own writing since I was 18. His work is pretty hard to get hold of, which is a terrible shame because it hits so hard it hurts, blood and fire poetry of the highest order that leaves you in doubt of the horror of war.
And in this time of over 4000 US troops killed, nearly 200 UK soldiers sacrificed, 30000+ injured and up to 90000 Iraqi civilians dead, we need his words more than ever.
Here is a selection...
I never wore a yellow ribbon
& I've bled for this country
no flag either
or "WELCOME HOME HEROES" bumper sticker on my car
I can't find one good thing to say
about American teenagers firing extremely high-tech weaponry
against a virtually unarmed enemy
A parade for our heroes?
A parade for death?
What was the body count anyway?
How many Iraqi children died with our metal in their bones?
I'm not going to make a nineteen year old kid a hero
for having the innocence to kill
I have two Purple Hearts myself
for being young & stupid
& that is not an excuse
to fill a coffin
I hadn't been home from the Nam for 23 minutes
before a kid my own age stuck his middle finger
in my face & called me asshole
my own sister didn't speak to me for five years
& my mother kept a full tank of gas in her Plymouth
for a one way ride to the VA hospital in Pittsburgh
I let the war lick my guts quietly
& without an audience
but when my daughter died from my exposure to Agent Orange
I bought a typewriter & pounded pure fire
out of its keys till it broke
& I bought another one
I thought if I shared blood with a reader
my goddamn hells would be easier to walk thru barefoot
but they aren't
THE TRUE TASTE OF AN ASSHOLE
I hate my whole fucking generation of baby bumpers
especially the men, the spineless bastards suck on a greed tit
the ex-hippie chick is a lump in a bowl of bland gravy
fuck the whole bunch of 'em
if you're in your forties & male
best be a Nam vet to walk in this house & get a handshake
this is wrong & I don't care
every year I lose another friend & no one is stepping in
one eye on the mirror
one eye on the floor