Joe Labriola served with the First Marines in Vietnam and received an honorable discharge. He also received the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart and is confined to a wheelchair. He has been incarcerated for thirty years.
His book of poetry, Prisms of War (Schulman Press, 83 pp., $15, paper), is divided into three sections: “The War Poems,” “The Prison Poems,” and “The Love Poems.” Each section has about a dozen poems; many contain strong images and words worth saying. I liked the prison poems the best and the love poems least. The book itself is a beautiful production with an eye-catching cover.
“The Bush” is a fairly typical poem, although its shorter than many.
We awoke to the sound
of the helicopter blades swooshing
and parting the grass in circles.
Dawn came up fast, too fast.
The light burned tired eyes
as we locked and loaded
wondering what hell awaited today.
The praying lamp was lit
for those who still had Gods
while the Sergeant checked quietly
making sure each man has ammo.
Nothing more needed to be said.
Nothing more could be said.
It was a day for killing.
Most of the poems—like this one—are plain spoken. The love poems get a bit more flowery, as love poems sometimes do.
If you like to read Vietnam War poetry, there are a few pieces in this book that are worth your time and effort. These poems are not doggerel, far from it.
To order, write to Joe Lab Defense, PO Box 84, Hopedale, MA 01747 or go to freejoelab.com