It’s only appropriate that a week ago today I was sitting in our city’s Vietnam War Veteran’s Memorial participating in a writing marathon across the city. Seven days later as I attempt to encapsulate just a small piece of that for those reading, we ourselves are celebrating our nation’s independence. The writing marathon creates a unique opportunity of rare moments of writing connected to place, often places that are not part of our daily routine.
National Writing Project’s Richard Louth defined it best,
It’s about the writing act, not the writing product. Most of our writing in school and in the publishing life is about the product. We teach our students the so-called writing process–draft, revise, polish, edit–and when it is done, they have supposedly learned to write. What they have learned is one way to write. There is an entire world of writers–and enjoyment in writing–that this process does not tap into. And the writing marathon does. That is, writing for the sake of writing. Writing for the moment. Writing for the immediate audience. Writing as the foundation of other writing by peers who respond directly to your thoughts in their writing. Writing as the experience of a moment or place. Writing for the self.
I have participated in Writing Marathons in Philly and KC on a large scale, and around schools, parks and neighborhoods on a smaller scale. Which only enhances the appeal. Writing marathons can happen literally any time, any where. Just pick up and pen and go. Immerse yourself in the space and write only for the sake of writing. You’ll be surprised what shows up on the page.
We visited several places across the city during our marathon, but in honor of today, this piece of writing seems most appropriate to share.
Blackened, broken, bloodied, blue.
Uncle what did they do to you?
Booming, bombing, barricades, abroad.
Did they tell you this war, a fraud?
Running, choking, aiming, pulling.
Who does the world think they’re fooling?
Peace from this? How? No way.
Yet you wake to serve day after day.
The noise around you now silenced,
But your brain still on attack.
The voice in your throat now silenced.
But your memories live on in a shack.
A ramshackle domain with no polish or praise,
for the honor, the courage,
that defined those days.
You mention a man killed in ’69.
A life taken at your hand
while you served your time.
The world has moved on.
Yet your prison remains.
The world has moved on.
A cold stone covers his remains.
Remains of blood and bones and a brother lost.
At what cost?
The cost of empathy, emotion, the ability to engage.
As you sit on the outside filled with quiet rage.
Yes, the war is over
and the world has moved on,
but so much remains.
Let us remember the cost,
for the living, the dead,
each person’s remains.