Thursday, February 18, 2010

February 18, 2010

Robert D. Wilson's
     The Wonderland Amusement Park                                                               

"Everything you imagine is real."
Pablo Picasso

"A man who has not passed through
the inferno of his passions has never
overcome them"

Carl Gustav Yung

these things yung calls dreams?
spring shadows

robert d. wilson
Once upon a time, a naive young 18 year old man-child enlisted in the U.S. Navy and volunteered to go to Vietnam. He wanted to get away from his girlfriend so he wouldn't make her pregnant and he'd red in Life Magazine that enlisted sailors had it made there, housed in their own apartments and confined to clerical duties in Saigon, the so-called safe party central of the Republic of South Vietnam. He was born and raised in Los Angeles County, California, and was stationed 30 miles from his home on the Long Beach Naval Base, being trained (what a joke) for duty on a mine sweeper.  The only time he set foot on a mine sweeper was when it was his turn for night time guard duty, and since there were no Viet Cong on or near the base, his duty was rarely checked.  He spent guard duty listening endlessly to the twenty minute song, East West, by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and fishing. That is, when he did guard duty.

He usually paid someone else to take his duty so he could wander around with his shipmates at the Long Beach Pike Amusement Park, a well worn, soon to be torn down seedy place, looking for whores that were few and far between, and the ones they met looked like zombies and were far from touchable.  The area swarmed with military police who monitored what sailors wore, did, and didn't do.  A lot of sailors got their first tattoo there but this guy didn't like tattoos.  Tired of the Pike (the pit), he spent weekends hanging out at a hippie commune near Hollywood and Vine on La Brea Avenue.  Sometimes he went home to see friends and family.  It never seemed to him like he was in the armed forces. On base he shared an apartment with three other sailors and ate buffet style at a mess hall that actually looked like a buffet restaurant and the food there was pretty damned good.

The guy, me, thought he had it made, so when signs were posted on base asking for volunteers to go to Vietnam, Life Magazine and his desire to leave the nest and see the world convinced him to volunteer his services.  He couldn't wait to be assigned to a comfy office in Saigon, far away from the killing fields he'd seen on, what he later learned, were tainted television newscasts influenced by big business and politicians who depend on the wealthy to finance their political campaigns. Prior to Long Beach, he was sent to boot camp in San Diego and later to Counter Insurgency Training on Coronado Island.  He was a trained ARA sharpshooter as a civilian and easily received the designation during arms training at a nearby Marine Base.  He was also his high school's champion weight lifter and in excellent physical shape.  The Navy keeps records of these accomplishments including the higher than high scores he received on testing during boot camp and counter insurgency training.

    " To the mind that is still,
     the whole universe surrenders."
   Lao Tze

Needless to say, I was in for a surprise. Sailors in Nam didn't give a shit if I was popular in high school, won scores of dance contests, some on television's The Sam Riddle Show, was a champion weightlifter from a conservative upper middle class high school that was only 13 miles from the city of Los Angeles. Most of the swabs I ran with were from dirt poor, poor, and lower middle class homes, the the majority America's southern states.  The only thing that counted to them was my ability to shoot, my desire for action, and my ability to play the guitar.

Here what counted was survival and returning stateside. When I got off the TWA Airliner at Tan sa Nut Air Force Base on the edge of Saigon (They didn't ship many soldiers on Naval planes ( target practice for the Viet Cong ) for safety reasons and because it took 18 t0 20 hours to get to Nam with a stopover in Japan; I was stunned to see uniformed guards standing guard in front of every plane, and upon disembarking, was slapped in the face by the hottest heat and humidity I'd ever felt or imagined.  Almost instantly we were taken by truck to our new quarters, a converted dump of a hotel, where we would would wait for reassignment to our permanent duty stations. During the week and a half I waited for reassignment, my new brothers and I went to whore houses like people scurry to work during weekdays in Los Angeles.  I was finally away from the nest.  I didn't drink beer or smoke cigarettes, but getting laid for the first time (I was a virgin who'd done everything else, but thanks to conservative parents and high school sex education movies using bulls and cows, I lost my virginity the first night I was in Saigon). None of us knew at the time, including our superiors, that Saigon was being set for a major offensive by the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Regular Army, and members of the Communist Chinese Army, that would begin two days after I left for my permanent duty station in the Mekong Delta region which had a top secret tag on our unit.

wearing a dragonʼs 
skin, this overcast night--- 
the tiger! 

robert d. wilson

"Tet is the Vietnamese New Year. Normally, it is a time for celebration. In 1968, it was the eve of a mass offensive staged by the Viet Cong. I was newly in country, walking with some buddies through the red light district in downtown Saigon. It was a surreal evening. Almost dreamlike.  Dali-esque.

The weather was humid. Clouds kept the moonlight at bay. The street 
was overflowing with Vietnamese civilians and American servicemen. 
Newbies, our sense of adventure was on overdrive. We wanted to see and experience everything. No parents to tell us what we could or couldnʼt do. 

There was also an intangible something in the air, like an electrical current. Itʼs hard to describe. Something was about to come down. The calm before the storm?  Everyone but the U.S. Military knew what was going to occur.

There were an unusual number of funeral processions that evening. Small groups of Vietnamese citizens walking through the middle of the street with a decorated casket, the deceasedʼs picture on top, carrying joss sticks and playing indigenous instruments. 

Later, after I was transferred to my duty station in Dong Tam, did I learn the truth about the funeral processions. They were used to transport arms and enemy soldiers into the nationʼs capitol in preparation for the Tet Offensive."

Excerpted from Robert D. Wilson's e-book, Vietnam Ruminations, the Apocalypse Now of English Language short Japanese short form poetry books on the subject. ©2003

This was my baptism into the twilight zone.  A few days later, far from personal hotel rooms in Saigon and doing clerical work, I was sent to the heart of the Mekong Delta, Dong Tam, the dragon's belly where temperatures sometimes got as hot as 127 degrees . . . a land of mirrors, kansas level flat ground carved out of a jungle and the Mytho river, where The Wonderland Amusement Park was founded. Welcome the TET Offensive . . . the land that Dali painted in the mind of Francis Ford Cappola's when he created Apocalypse Now.  Once one enters such a world, the difference between reality and dreams intertwine, like and ova and sperm. A new reality that the uninitiated will never grasp.   Don Quixote's world of mirrors, windmills, songs, and dreams.  A place where nothing is as it seems: The Wonderland Amusement Park.

these things yung calls dreams?
spring shadow

a friend, my

ass, your talk of
dry leafs
you'd skip stones across
the pond in seconds!

twilight dusk . . .
red clouds harvesting
new rice

when she left
our room, i tried to stop
the movie . . . 
it disappeared in
to the dragon's mouth

my words . . .
too many syllables
for warm nights

she forgot 
to buy cream bread,
yesterday . . .
a selfish farmer 
wading through wet dreams

the gunship
in my dreams, watering
summer skies

you surprised
me tonight with your
phone call . . . 
a honey moon
floating through dreams

rose bush, 
would thorns make me feel

she came home 
today, thinking she
wasn't buntis . . . 
a tourist guide
playing cowgirl

tea leaves . . . 
what do you say 
when stars weep?

she threw ceramics
at the wall . . .
said she wanted
our baby to die

almost march . . . 
this will be our
last garden!

i wanted to die
until you
came out and said
you're in the same place

you're my
angel, buttering
rose blossoms

riding in
our car with the man
who fucked my girl . . . 
thick clouds on a highway
full of jeepneys

she knows when
to butter the toast . . . 
spring haiku

will you treat
me well when he's
left and you're
pregnant with the seed
of another man?

she'll sleep in
this morning, her back
facing west

let me know
when your leafs have
fallen and
you're ready once again
to be my  woman

the clouds color . . . 
she doesn't like her lies

does she feel
like a slut, a
martyr . . . 
an actress in a role
she doesn't want?

seeding clouds . . . 
she won't let me out
of her sight!

too late for
sushi, i locked
myself out
of the bedroom . . . 
i'll sleep alone in

i said no . . . 
not a petal 
from this tree!

if it weren't
for you, i'd be
a sideshow . . . 
juggling syllables
through a firey hoop

she watches
every petal fall . . . 
shaving ice

yes i was
drunk and it felt 
good . . . 
yesterday you crushed
my desire to live

strangled by lies . . . 
empty clouds

lies, i'll
never know; shadows
you've kept
under trees etched
with too many names

clear skies . . . 
the hope for new rice . . . 

slick, the way
she his his photos
from me . . . 
after taking them
off her laptop

her suitor,
the video, kissed
the wind

she'll swim 
through cumulus clouds
into a
dream that may or
may not work out?

our worker
resigned tonight . . .
leaving winter

the bastard
had the nerve to ask
my girl to
spend time alone with him
and she accepted

he still tries
to YM her thinking
she loves him?

he demanded
two hours alone with
mahal ko . . . 
an actor playing a
scene for what it's worth

a thousand
stars, none of them
wearing spring

he talks like
a six grade student . . .
telling me
how many times he 
masterbates each day

she asked me
to help her up, to
water grass

if she defends
him, she'll have played
her hand . . . 
either i am
or i am not

she couldn't 
promise me a no . . .
shattered slate

she seemed relieved he
left quickly . . . 
the rain cleansing
polluted air

fish scales . . .
she cared more for
the new car

once more, she tightens
her belt . . . 
carrying someone's child
up a steep mountain

worried, she'll
have her period . . .
sleepless fish

taking the
home pregnancy test
twice this week . . . 
anxious to see
a shooting star

will clouds 
last through the evening?

robert d. wilson

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