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Fourteen Months

from your ship in Vietnam.
Love letters.
Six pages in one of them
on the thin Navy stationary,
listing the ways you loved me.

Two months into your tour break
home with me at Pearl Harbor
you were suddenly a tiger, pacing.

I cramped your space.
You stayed with me
only because you promised.
Our apartment became webbed
with your anger.

Butterflies flew from my chest,
fluttering out of your reach
into the fragrant Hawaii air.

Back on the ship, letters
arrived in thick bundles, claiming
you would make those days up—

but you were the same when
that tour was over.
Neither of us knew then that PTSD
could knock a man off-kilter
even on a relatively safe ship in the DMZ.

I finally had to leave the angry indifference.

You’re dead two years and a half now,
both of us remarried,
but I still grieve you.
How I loved you.

Poems spill out
like the turning tide
you rode on then and ride
again now, touching me
occasionally within our shared
Vietnam of the soul.

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"On Being Different"

“I was a clinical psychologist, sidelined in 1990 with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). I belong to several poetry associations. My poems have been published in seven books and numerous journals and anthologies.”

About the Poem

“This poem relates to my first husband, his PTSD after Vietnam and his death almost three years ago. Despite divorce, a once strong connection lingers even through the two things that took him down.”


9 thoughts on “Fourteen Months”

  1. Wow, Pris! How powerful this poem is.

    (I suspect many of us who grew up during The Troubles in Northern Ireland could have an element of PTSD. But perhaps we became used to the security checks entering shops and the sound of bomb blasts, and because we were so young, we didn’t know this wasn’t normal—until the ceasefire, I guess. I had moved to England by then but I do remember my husband and I ducking down when we heard a car backfire in London. )

    A very thought-provoking poem.


    1. Thank you, Marion. Yes, I can see how something seems normal until it ends and then you see how truly upsetting it was.

    1. Your poem is deeply moving, poignantly reminding those of us who lived through the Vietnam War how it ripped our generation apart: marriages, families, communities, and the nation as a whole. Even after all these decades, we still grieve, both individually, as your poem expresses so eloquently, and communally. Thank you for your poem.

  2. I know how you feel. My husband, who is 89 years old now, suffered from PTSD all his life. He was born in London, England, and at a very young age was evacuated away from the bombing and his close family. He still remembers the sounds of the planes and the screams of the dying, some of whom were his relatives. He survived, but the terror and anger remains even now.

  3. Compassionate writing at its best. This poem brings back those who went to Vietnam and how changed they were upon their return as well as the feelings that survive after a relationship ends.

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