Monday, July 9th, 2012...10:59 pm

pris campbell | erosion

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The Rape of Proserpina | Sculpture by Bernini


Vietnam wasn’t just over there,
I tell you, hand you that photograph.

Ship barely home to Pearl Harbor,
it’s the night of our wedding party.
Our lives have already begun to unravel
behind us but we don’t see it.

The mouth of Vietnam yawns wide in the shadows.

The Petty Officer’s wife is to die
by her nephew’s hand only three weeks
after the shutter snap; Sharon is gone
in a car crash two months later.

Stan stands, arm over Sharon’s shoulder,
drink and cigarette in one hand, so certain
she will be in his tomorrow and in as many
tomorrows as he can ever imagine.

Nobody thought about ‘forever’ in Vietnam.

Our Best Man, four years later, rapes me.
He forces himself into my warmth
when I sleep overnight on their couch,
en-route to a conference, hand hard over
my mouth whispering ’shhh shhh’ as one might
soothe a child awakened from a bad dream.

Did he mistake me for one of his bar girls,
selling her soul for drinks and a dollar?
Is that why he told his wife, still my best
friend, it was consensual?

Our friendship died with that lie.

Betrayal, distance, divorce…our own post
Vietnam wars eroded what we felt, that night,
would glue us together in our celebration
for new beginnings, safe returns.

We didn’t think friendships would loosen
as easily as a ship slips her lines
when the horn blows for cast off.
We didn’t think strangers would replace
friends huddled so close, our smiles
infusing the room with magic.


  • Stunning…it always humbles me when I discover a new poet I have not read yet — whose work grabs me right by the throat. A scorching poem.

  • Dennis, thank you for your wonderful comment. I’m glad the poem touched you.


  • This is poignant and powerful! And I’m always a sucker for a great, historic backdrop, especially the Vietnam War. How Campbell weaves this into her own relationships is most effective, giving it more weight, making the horror of her abuse especially raw. But yes, I’m drawn in immediately and hooked with that solitary line: “The mouth of Vietnam yawns wide in the shadows.” What a stunning image; and dark! Great work! Congratulations on this impressive publication.

  • Michael, thank you so much for your comment!


  • Pris, my feeble mind can’t come up with the right words. One word does come to mind though…extraordinary!

  • like this one a lot, Pris.

  • good poem. I like this one a lot. a.d. winans.

  • Al, thank you and Pat, both, for your comments on his poem. Lots of emotion behind this one.

  • This is a searing poem Pris, woven with the torment of Viet Nam ever present. You capture the agony of lives being battered and people torn apart from dear friends. You are able to have us live through the torment and consequences of this war., Beautifully and poignantly written.

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