Lawerence Mize enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966, and did a tour of duty as a combat medic with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He then served as a police officer in Baltimore for close to thirty years, retiring in 1999 as a sergeant. In the early 1980s he was troubled by PTSD and dealt with that problem by writing the poetry collections Tortured Soul (1997) and Dead Men Calling (2002). Both of those works are based on his experiences in Vietnam and helped him cope with the issues he was having with PTSD.
Mize’s latest collection, My Long Journey in Baltimore (Dorrance Publishing, 92 pp., $23, paper; $18, e book), contains eighty pages of poetry. The titles of the poems give away their subjects. “Cu Chi,” “Dead Men Calling,” “Screaming Eagle,” “Memories of Nam,” “My Gun,” and many more poems deal with his war, his family and his career in law enforcement.
Here are a typical few lines from “Screaming Eagle”:
Walk in the vills
Down beaten paths
Worm through the tunnels
I’m here to kick ass.
I’m young and I’m strong
As hardcore as they come,
Humping in the Nam.
Keep Charlie on the run.
Morphine syrettes, filling sandbags, big orange pills, PTSD, baby killers, cowards at home, rats fleeing to Canada, traitors should be shot in the head, napalm canisters—all of that rhetoric flavored the poetry with the politics of the time.
Read this book and weep. That’s the kind of book it is. I read it and wept myself and for myself. Of course, these days it is a rare book that does not provoke me to tears because of the medication I’m taking—or the subjects of the books.
I recommend this book for anyone looking for poetry that captures the extreme language of the 1960s.