As we continue to honor National Poetry Month this April, we bring you the work of Vietnam veteran and award-winning poetry and fiction writer Doug Anderson, a Northampton resident and visiting poet at Smith College. 

Anderson shares the inspiration for his work Night Ambush and reads a selection of the poem for producer Dave Fraser. 


Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: As we continue to honor National Poetry Month this April, we bring you the work of Vietnam veteran and award-winning poetry and fiction writer Doug Anderson, a Northampton resident and visiting poet at Smith College, who shares the inspiration for his work night ambush and reads a selection of the poem for producer Dave Frasier.

Doug Anderson, Poet & Vietnam Veteran: We would go out on a night ambush patrols and smear mosquito repellent all over us. I mean, under our socks and everything. And the only place that we didn’t smear mosquito repellent was our lips, because obviously we didn’t want it in our mouths. Tasted terrible and it was toxic.

So, the mosquitoes would all congregate around our mouth. And after a while, you’ve been bitten so many times on the lips, it felt like you’d been to the dentist. It’s just absolutely numb.

And when I was thinking about this, a whole poem came out of that body memory, which I’ll read right now.

Night Ambush.

We are still, lips swollen with mosquito bites.
A treeline opens out onto paddies
quartered by dikes, a moon in each,
and in the center, the hedged island of a village
floats in its own time, ribboned with smoke.
Someone is cooking fish.
Whispers move across water.
Children and old people. Anyone between
is a target. It is so quiet
you can hear a safety clicked off
all the way on the other side.
Things live in my hair. I do not bathe.
I have thrown away my underwear.
I have forgotten the why of everything.
I sense an indifference larger than anything
I know. All that will remain of us
is rusting metal disappearing in vines.
Above the fog that clots the hill ahead
a red tracer arcs and dims.
A black snake slides off the paddy dike
into the water and makes the moon shiver.