Body Count: The Dead At Tay Ninh
We had no place to put them
so we piled them, boots
pointed to the sky,
by the mess tent.
All day they kept coming.
I saw one man run from a swirl of dust,
and sit beside them, and his look
when he realized where he was.
By afternoon, the sick and lame
who’d missed the ships
came to gaze in disbelief.
Bodies so close together lies came easy.
They’d wake up when the war was over.
This was it for them.
Dusk, the last ones came from the Angel Plain;
the grass had caught on fire.
Their bodies black and crisp curled in the purple light.
Dawn, we flew them out in bags,
mopped up the mess for chow.
Questions for Reflection:Body Count: “The Dead At Tay Ninh”
- What is the image you are left with after having read this poem? Does it make you think of any other events in your live time? If so, what?
- What emotions are you left with after having read the poem? How do you think those who witnessed this scene are able to cope? How can they heal?
- How would you explain the line, “Bodies so close together lies come easily?”
- What does “The Dead at Tay Ninh” say about the fragility of life? What does it say about the daily events of being at war? What is the irony in this poem? What are the contradictions?