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Bruce Weigl

Bruce Weigl was born on January 27, 1949 in Lorain, Ohio. He enlisted in the Army shortly after his 18th birthday and spent four years in the service, serving in Vietnam from December 1967 to December 1968, where he received the Bronze Star. When he returned to the United States, Weigl obtained a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a Master of Arts Degree from the University of New Hampshire. His first full-length collection of poems, A Romance, was published in 1979. After he received a Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1979, he was an assistant professor of English at the University of Arkansas and later held the same position at Old Dominion University. During the 1980's, Weigl published two more poetry collections: The Monkey Wars and Song of Napalm. In 1986, he became an associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and was later promoted to professor. In 1999, he published two more poetry collections, Archeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems and After the Others. He left Penn State in 2000 and took a position at Lorain County Community College as a distinguished professor. He also published a memoir that year titled The Circle of Hanh: A Memoir.

Weigl has contributed various well-renowned poems for over 25 years. Many of his poems are inspired by the time he spent in the U.S. Army and Vietnam. In The Circle of Hanh he writes, "The war took away my life and gave me poetry in return ... the fate the world has given me is to struggle to write powerfully enough to draw others into the horror." In addition to writing his own poetry, Weigl translated poems of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers captured during war with Thanh T. Nguten of the Joiner Research Center. The two men accepted an invitation from the Vietnamese Writers Association and traveled to Hanoi to receive assistance in translating the poems.

Weigl's first award was a prize from the American Academy of Poets in 1979. He received two Pushcart Prizes, a Patterson Poetry Prize, and a Yaddo Foundation Fellowship. He was awarded the Bread Loaf Fellowship in Poetry in 1981 and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988 for Arts and Creative Writing. He was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Song of Napalm.

Weigl currently is a visiting distinguished professor at Lorain County Community College. He married Jean Kondo, an artist, and together they had one son and one daughter.

On the Anniversary of Her Grace

Rain and low clouds blown through the valley,
rain down the coast raising the brackish
rivers at their high tides too high,
rain and black skies that come for you.

Not excellent and fair,
I wake from a restless night of dreams of her
whom I will never have again
as surely as each minute passing
makes impossible another small fulfillment
until there's only a lingering
I remember, a kiss I had imagined
would come again and again to my face.

Inside me the war had eaten a hole.
I could not touch anyone.
The wind blew through me to the green place
where they still fell in their blood.
I could hear their voices at night.

I could not undress in the light
her body cast in the dark rented room.

I could keep the dragons at the gate.
I could paint my face and hide
as shadow in the triple-canopy jungle.
I could not eat or sleep then walk all day
and all night watch a moonlit path for movement.

I could draw leeches from my skin
with the tip of a cigarette
and dig a hole deep enough to save me
before the sun bloodied the hills we could not take
even with our lives
but I could not open my arms to her
that first night of forgiveness.
I could not touch anyone.
I thought my body would catch fire.

Copyright 1988 by Bruce Weigl

The Kiss

All the good-byes said and done
I climbed into the plane and sat down.
From the cold I was shaking and ached
to be away from the love
of those waving through the frozen window . . .

(Once as a boy I was lost in a storm,
funnel cloud twisting so near
I was pitched from my bicycle
into the ditch,
picked up by the wind and yellow sky,
my arms before me
feeling my way through the wind
I could not cry above.
Out of that black air of debris,
out of nowhere, my father bent down,
lifted me and ran
to the house of strangers.)

And again that day on the plane
he appeared to me,
my forgotten orders in his hands.
He bent down to put the envelope into my lap,
on my lips he kissed me hard
and without a word he was gone
into the cold again.
Through the jungle, through the highlands,
through all that green dying
I touched my fingers to my lips.

Copyright 1988 by Bruce Weigl

Snowy Egret

My neighbor's boy has lifted his father's shotgun and stolen
down to the backwaters of the Elizabeth
and in the moon he's blasted a snow egret
from the shallows it stalked for small fish.

Midnight. My wife wakes me. He's in the backyard
with a shovel so I go down half drunk with pills
that let me sleep to see what I can see and if it's safe.
The boy doesn't hear me come across the dewy grass.
He says through tears he has to bury it,
he says his father will kill him
and he digs until the hole is deep enough and gathers
the egret carefully into his arms
as if not to harm the blood-splattered wings
gleaming in the flashlight beam.

His man's muscled shoulders
shake with the weight of what he can't set right no matter what,
but one last time he tries to stay a child, sobbing
please don't tell. . . .
He says he only meant to flush it from the shadows,
but only meant to watch it fly
but the shot spread too far
ripping into the white wings spanned awkwardly for a moment
until it glided into brackish death.

I want to grab his shoulders,
Shake the lies loose from his lips but he hurts enough,
he burns with shame for what he's done,
with fear for his hard father's
fists I've seen crash down on him for so much less.
I don't know what do to but hold him.
If I let go he'll fly to pieces before me.
What a time we share, that can make a good boy steal away,
wiping out from the blue face of the pond
what he hadn't even known he loved, blasting
such beauty into nothing.

Copyright 1988 by Bruce Weigl

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