Sometime in the second half of the twentieth century,
a little before the U.S. involvement
in Vietnam, at an age when I still ran away
to a sofa just out of sight of the TV
to bounce till I
could bear it,
bamboo meant World War II,
in the South Pacific,
Alec Guinness limping upright
from a blistered three-foot
box, surrounded by sunspots
and jointed jungle.
How strong, by comparison, were the timbers used
by his troops to span the River Kwai–
even the Allied whistle carrying
no reedy wheedle–
How we thrilled at the buttoned brittleness
of the Brit, awed by the nobility of that
conspicuous backbone, all those eon-
forged vowels–my brother wired
to the one comfy chair, me caught
upon the carpet (unable even
to flee to far sofa safety), as we stared
through the flicker of that
yellow-green wood, a genus grown only
in the land of Holly–
Of course, poor Alec was nearly bamboozled–it was our
compatriot, the surly Yank,
William Holden, engulfed in brown wade
and incipient love handles, who knew the true score–
that war was not about building bridges
or character, but about detonators, destruction, lots
of bang, boom, shrapnel.
“Madness,” says the doctor character through
the smoke, but “greatness,”
is what we thought.
Here’s a draft poem for Hannah Gosselin’s prompt on With Real Toads about bamboo. Sorry for the length. I call it a draft because the poem has gone through a million iterations and I still am not getting what I want! I’m also afraid it may be incomprehensible to anyone who has not seen The Bridge On the River Kwai, a movie made in 1957, directed by David Lean, and starring Alec Guiness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa.
The movie takes place in a WWII prison camp in Burma in which the Japanese overguards force the Allied soldiers to build a bridge for a supply route. Guinness plays a British Colonel focused on maintaining standards (and morale). The pic is a frame from the move, all copyrights belong to the owner (and no infringement intended.)Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.