Humberto Ak’abal is a poet from Guatemala. These poems were written in K’iche and translated into Spanish by Humberto. Further translation from the Spanish into English was made by Miguel Rivera with Fran Quinn. All poems are extracted from the book by Humberto Ak’abal In the Courtyard of the Moon, Los Angeles, Tia Chucha Press, forthcoming in April 2021. We kindly thank the publisher for permission to publish these poems.
Seeking the most comprehensive and holistic healing of war wounds possible, I have been leading annual reconciliation journeys to Viet Nam for veterans and other war survivors every year since the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the war in 2000. Encounters between survivors of all sides squeeze long-ago memories and feelings out of American and Vietnamese alike. Through poetry I record the voices and stories of women and men who lived through extraordinarily close encounters during war and again on meeting today. These encounters show the depths and complexities of our emotional lives during times of warfare and its aftermath when we can transform fear and hatred into understanding, compassion and love.
This poem starts with the Hebrew words for left (Smol) and right (Yameen). In the Israeli army, they are loudly called out during a cadence march. The poem then moves to the very different environment of a Zendo in NYC. Years later these words came back to me during walking meditation, creating a disorienting sense of unreality, even astonishment at this new setting. What does it mean for a soldier to find himself in this still, serene environment? Is it not mere pretense to walk with such beatific air? As a gay young man, I did not see my fellow platoon members as brothers in arms. I saw aggression and pride in their new-found power, exemplified by the M-16 in their hands. They would most likely have laughed at this new group I’ve assimilated myself into, walking with the foolish idea that slow steps and a soft gaze can bring us to enlightenment. Is it possible for me now to let go of my boots and helmet when these Hebrew words assert themselves at every step I take?
Read Smol Yameen, by Yoav Ben Yosef
Dear readers of Close Encounters in War, we are delighted to publish another poetic contribution about the Vietnam war, this time from the perspective of a Vietnamese veteran: Trần Đình Song, who served in the Southern Vietnamese Air Force and was in the re-education forced labour camps after the war. This beautiful poem was written in 1966, and although the horror of civil war war haunted the Author and his country, his words are full of love and hope. We publish the poem in its original version, accompanied by the new English translation that the Author made with his friend and member of the CEIWJ Editorial Board Edward Tick.
Dòng suối quê hương (The Streams of Our Native Land), by Trần Đình Song
Stories and poems of close encounters in war
Close encounters in war are, before anything else, life experiences that change in depth those who make them. As editors of the Close Encounters in War Journal, we have always been aware of this simple but basic fact and therefore decided to open the third issue of the journal (2020) to creative writing. We wanted to propose an experimental encounter between scholarly research and forms of creative and non-fictional writing whose roots go deep into experience and imagination.
After that exciting experience, being aware that stories and poems of close encounters in war deserve a place of their own in the website, we are happy to announce the launch of the new section “Stories and poems of close encounters in war“.
This new section of the journal is divided into three subsections (Poetry, Fiction, and Testimonies and Autobiographical Essays) and is meant to be a space for creativity and exploration of all those forms of writing that help us understand war more thoroughly as a multifaceted and complex experience. We invite storytellers, veterans, practitioners, relatives and friends of veterans, poets, therapists, and much more to feel free to submit their contributions to the CEIWJ. We will be happy and grateful to read year round your original and unpublished works about your encounters in and with war, real and imagined. We will select and publish the best, more insightful, and inspiring contributions.
We present in this section a collection of poetical contributions that explore the topic of the close encounter in war.
Scott Casey: You died today (May 4, 2021)
Kate Dahlstedt: Sentry (April 21, 2021)
Humberto Ak’abal: Selected poems from In the Courtyard of the Moon (Tia Chucha Press, 2021) (March 26, 2021)
Edward Tick: The Emotions after War in Viet Nam. Poetry from my Reconciliation and Healing Journeys (March 17, 2021)
Yoav Ben Yosef: Smol Yameen (March 9, 2021)
Trần Đình Song: Dòng suối quê hương (The Streams of Our Native Land) (February 22, 2021)
Charles “Sandy” Scull and Brent “Mac” MacKinnon: Selected poetry and prose by Sandy Scull and Brent MacKinnon from the volume Agent Orange Roundup. Living with a Foot in Two Worlds (Bookstand Publishing, 2020) (December 27, 2020)
Edward Tick: Selected poetry and prose by Edward Tick (December 27, 2020)