Every One is a Wreck of Something
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
The first poem in Bomb Children is also the last poem that I wrote as part of my Lao fieldwork. Fieldpoem 30 marks my transition out of the field and back to my native California. I wrote the poem on the Amtrack train from Oakland to a family gathering in Fresno—the train passed by military training grounds, protest signs against California's water wars, farm fields abandoned due to the extreme drought, laborers bent double picking fruit, shanty towns, strip malls, and new housing complexes on the expanding edge of suburbia.
Fieldpoem 30: Postwar
My sight has changed forever:
I see the hulk of an army-green
in a farm field in rural California
amongst rusting tractors, threshers
Every one is a wreck of something
This sense of ruined perspective affected me for nearly two years after returning from Laos: the shock of seeing every old rusty piece of equipment as possible war debris, every hole in the ground as a possible crater. I needed to consciously re-orient myself: I had learned so well how to see the war in Laos, that I saw California as if it was a postwar zone, and it was difficult for me to remember how I had seen California before I undertook this research. Was one way of seeing better than another, or more truthful? No. California is hugely shaped by American cultures of war. My hometown is built on the remains of pre-Columbian Ohlone culture, all but erased by settler genocide. More recently, our streets have witnessed ICE raids, police shootings of Black men,
and street fighting between white nationalist and anti-fascist groups. War is so easy to hide in everyday life that I honestly can’t tell you if there really was a helicopter in that farm field.
You can see this poem and related poems in the Battlefields, Fieldpoems feature in the October issue of Kenyon Review Online, alongside the poems of Nomi Stone, my friend and fellow anthro-poet.