Sunday, February 01, 2015

Book #5: Death Coming Up the Hill

This week's book is a YA novel written by a friend of mine, Chris Crowe, and set in 1968, a pivotal year on so many levels. The main character grapples with the Vietnam War, the hard realities of racism, and the breakup of his parent's marriage. The story is told entirely in 976 haiku. Here's why:

There's something tidy
in seventeen syllables,
a haiku neatness

that leaves craters of 
meaning between the lines but
still communicates

what matters most. I 
don't have the time or the space
to write more, so I'll

write what needs to be
remembered and leave it to
you to fill in the 

gaps if you feel like 
it. In 1968
sixteen thousand five

hundred ninety-two
American soldiers died
in Vietnam, and

I'm dedicating
one syllable to each soul
as I record my

own losses suffered
in 1968, a 
year like no other.

Honestly, it was an emotional read.

This in part because we are still going around and around and around with essentially the same things that divided us back then. Civil rights. Enemies both real and perceived. Militarization. Profiteering. I can't breathe. War and unrest. Marriage equality. Je suis Charlie. Controversy over the film American Sniper.

But let's not forget we survived 1968.

Well, some of us did. Among others, the book reminded me, sixteen thousand five hundred ninety-two American soldiers, three black youth in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, and untold numbers of Southeast Asians didn't.

Still. We do survive.

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