Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

Shortly after our return from the States, our first son was born, and then a little later I saw a television programme about four young ex- soldiers and the effects that the Vietnam war had had on them. It was called 'The Haunted Heroes' and I remember that what haunted me most about it was an interview with one of them who had been living for the a past year, fending for himself in the backwoods. His story was that, after discharge, he'd gone back to live at home. He'd been trained to respond instantly, to attack, and not having been - as it were - de-trained, de-toxed, he'd warned his parents that he was still highly susceptible to any sudden shock. Of course it was difficult for his family, particularly for his mother, not to go on as things had been before, and he told how, back in his own childhood room, she had come in one morning to wake him up as she'd always done by waggling his big toe as it stuck out from under the blankets. Before he was fully conscious, he'd got her in an arm lock around her throat, and when he came to she was terrified and gasping for breath. Horrified and shamed by what he'd done, he left home and had been living rough, on his own, ever since. This story, along with accounts by other soldiers, of the killing of women and children, and my own awareness of just how far these terrible experiences were from the security of my own family life, was the starting point of this next poem.

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