From Darkness to Light (152 pp. Mill City Press, $16.99 pp.) by James E. Hackbarth, is a book of poetry that focuses on one man’s journey with post-traumatic stress disorder. Hackbarth, a member of Vietnam Veterans of America, served as a U.S. Army Huey helicopter door gunner from 1968-69 with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, in Vietnam.
In “Destiny,” he writes:
“Am I living tomorrow today?
Have I been here before?
What is waiting for me behind
In “Men of War”:
War is not about men
Telling their story
Nor telling of past glory.
War is about a minute of one’s
Life filled with terror
It doesn’t go away because
You see it every day in replay.
The most memorable poem in this collection, “Soldier’s Wind Chime,” has this opening stanza:
Do you hear it?
Listen closely be still
Now can you hear it?
The soldier’s wind chime
It is whispering to me
Telling his story
A sad war story
Of a place, we know too well
Generously, Hackbarth includes a handful of poems written by friends. A stunningly gorgeous poem, by Joy April DeNicola, “I Wish I Were Vietnam,” includes this stanza:
If I were that place I would be seen by him.
I would be known if I were Vietnam.
He would want to discern every way and why of me/
He would dream of me, feel me in the root of himself.
He would think me, drink me, breathe me in, if I were Vietnam.
Hackbarth’s “We Demand More,” with this gut-wrenching opening stanza:
Have I not bared my soul for you?
Have I not shed enough tears to please you?
Must I carry this weight upon my shoulders to make you see me
Did you not see the real person upon this stage?
Must I bleed, must I break down and beg for your approval,
Is it not enough that I have done as you ask?
Is there more you ask
That’s all you have they say
Have we used you up so soon?
We demand more we demand more tell us the truth.
It’s been said that poetry is the most personal form of writing. In this collection James Hackbarth digs deeply into himself and uses poetry to express all that his heart, mind, and soul are pouring out.