Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another poem by Robert H. Brague


..........................December, 1972

............Peace on earth, good will toward men.
............They’re bombing North Vietnam again --
............B-52’s lost this week total ten --
............Peace on earth, good will toward men.

............It came upon a midnight clear,
............That glorious song of old,
............Yellow-skinned children huddle in fear
............Against the wind and the cold
............And wonder what new horror
............Will the midnight blackness bring,
............And the whole earth gives back the song
............Which now the angels sing.

............Has Johnny talked to Santa Claus?
............They’re talking about a bombing pause.
............Inaugural plans are proceeding well;
............Pat will wear yellow. War is hell.
............Do you think man has an immortal soul?
............Do you think they’ll blackout the Super Bowl?

............Silent night, holy night,
............Napalm gives a lovely light;
............Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
............How does it feel to destroy a child?

............Peace on earth, good will toward men.
............They’re bombing North Vietnam again --
............B-52’s lost this week total ten --
............Peace on earth, good will toward men.


[Editor’s note. The impetus for this poem was an evening newscast on television. The reader -- I can’t remember whether it was Harry Reasoner or Howard K. Smith -- was just finishing a story about the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping with the words, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” He paused ever so briefly to indicate he was done, then launched (a little too nonchalantly, it seemed to me) into his next item with the words, “They’re bombing North Vietnam again.” I noticed the strange juxtaposition of topics, as well as the end rhyme, and his next sentence just compounded the effect: “B’52s lost this week total ten,” or something similar. The poem just kind of took off on its own after that. Pat Nixon did indeed wear yellow in January to the inauguration of her husband’s second term as President. Originally I wrote, “Pat will wear pink” because I liked the alliteration better, but I was struck by the horrifying coincidence of the interest in the color of Mrs. Nixon's dress and the color of the skin of the children waiting for the bombs to fall, and I changed it. --RWP]

16 comments:

Jeannelle said...

Great job of preserving a historical moment via poetry!

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Not quite Andrew Marvell but still good. That poem was written nearly forty years ago. This is something you and I have in common - a relationship with poetry - like an itch we cannot scratch away.

Snowbrush said...

Like Mark Twain's "War Prayer," I shouldn't think that your poem would be well-received by those who go out of their way to express their patriotism.

Rhymes, you might check on that B-52 reference, because--while I really don't know--I would be surprised if we lost ANY B-52s. They are massive and high flying (56,000 feet) bombers that I shouldn't think would venture low enough to be hit by a Vietcong missile.

rhymeswithplague said...

Thank you, Jeannelle, , and Snowbrush, for commenting.

Snow, I checked and although I didn't get verification on my line of poetry I did find very interesting information in Wikipedia's article, Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, especially in these sentences in the section on the Vietnam War:

"On 22 November 1972, a B-52D (55-0110) from U-Tapao was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) while on a raid over Vinh. The crew was forced to abandon the damaged aircraft over Thailand. This was the first B-52 to be destroyed by hostile fire in Vietnam."

and these:

"The zenith of B-52 attacks in Vietnam was Operation Linebacker II (sometimes referred to as the Christmas Bombing) which consisted of waves of B-52s (mostly D models, but some Gs without jamming equipment and with a smaller bomb load). Over 12 days, B-52s flew 729 sorties and dropped 15,237 tons of bombs on Hanoi, Haiphong, and other targets. Originally 42 B-52s were committed to the war; however, numbers were frequently twice this figure."

By the way, I think the B-52s flew at 34,000 to 36,000 feet, not 56,000.

Putz said...

a note to bobsie on my comments concerning WAR

Snowbrush said...

The ceiling was 56,000 feet. IF the first B-52 wasn't shot down until 1972, which was only a couple of years from the end of the war, it's hard to imagine that ten were shot down in one week. I shouldn't think that we had enough of the big bombers to sustain that degree of loss for very long--of the plane or its crew. I'll read the article later--I hear Peggy getting up.

Carolina said...

Hmm. A chilling poem.

I've always found it remarkable that news bulletin readers close their listings of disasters and deaths with something like 'have a nice day/evening', depending on what time of day it is.

rhymeswithplague said...

Thanks to Yorkshire Pudding, Putz, and Carolina as well.

I'm "in a zone" today (pre-Christmas fatigue, I think) and not up to my usual scintillating par with my comments.

Shooting Parrots said...

The Wikipedia article you mention goes on to say that 30 B-52s were lost in total, including ten shot down over North Vietnam. Could it be that the news referred to the loss of a single plane, bringing the total to ten?

Nevertheless, you should claim poetic licence.

rhymeswithplague said...

Shooting Parrots, bingo! How could I have missed that sentence? Thank you for helping me know it was not a figment of my imagination.

In an abrupt change of topic, I hope everyone has a very happy Beethoven's birthday....

Snowbrush said...

" I hope everyone has a very happy Beethoven's birthday.... "

Don't worry. I'm loaded to the gills with oxycodone and marijuana, and as soon as it all kicks in, I'll try to get back to sleep.

Happy Beethoven's Birthday to you too.

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhymeswithplague said...

Thank you, Elizabeth, for reminding us of the key signatures of all nine of Beethoven's symphonies, and also for hoping that we are all released into our true own natural key.

It reminded me of something my piano teacher, Mrs. Alyne Eagan, used to say, "Don't B sharp; don't B flat. B natural."

LightExpectations said...

Beautiful poem. I can share it with my kids as part of teaching poetry, and as part of teaching history. Thank you for sharing.

Elizabeth said...

The dilemma is, do we sing 'Happy Birthday' in C major, D major,E flat major, B flat major,C minor,F major, La major,F major or with choir and soloists in D minor?

Beethoven once said, "Symphonies are the best representation of my true self. I always seem to hear within me the sounds of a great orchestra."

That's a great quote for anybody to live by. We're all at our best when the real music is allowed to harmoniously sing out from within us and the discordant notes have been re-tuned. May you and every one of your other visitors is released into their true own natural key.

(My apologies for deleting, Bob, but I felt that I had to be honest and sadly retract part of what I said earlier.) xx

rhymeswithplague said...

Elizabeth, your new comment looks much like your old comment. For the life of me I cannot remember what you deleted, which is probably a good thing.