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Atonement
Author: Shiloh

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He stood there
    (or maybe he was sitting -
        I know I would have been)

atop The Wall,
centered, supported,
by all those names;
supported by the dead--
because he could no longer find any support
among the living.
    (Peace, for so many of us,
        is also Hell.)


His age? About thirty-plus,
going on twenty or twenty-two
or almost nineteen.
Occupation? Unhappy, hurt, confused,
empty, bitter, frustrated, depressed
and angry and frightened and lonely
Vietnam veteran.
    (What he did in the world to earn a buck
        isn't important here.)


Did he have a family? Yeah, his parents,
and they probably couldn't understand him.
A wife, if there was one,
was at least number two for him.
Kids? Usually there are kids.
If there were, I hope that someday
someone who understands
will try to explain it to them.
He's since been written off
by the community, by the media,
as a guy who didn't have his head wrapped too tight.
That's bullshit, but most people consider suicide
to be an act of insanity.
There are times, believe me,
when it's the only sane thing left to do.
I can understand his act,--
his statement,--
I'm able to appreciate it for what it was.

        The Wall was as good a place as any.
        Really, in one important way,
        it was better than any place else;
        at least at The Wall he was with those he could trust.
        There was no need for the petty, plastic bullshit games
        that civilized life required of him.
        He wasn't very good at playing those games anyway.

        Can't you just see him,
        in the minutes, in the moments,
        before he stopped suffering?
        It was a few minutes past dawn
        and the mist was rising, being burned off
        by the sun. It was that delicious time of the morning
        when birds start to waken,
        but the city itself is not quite awake,
        and the earth is still at peace, it's so quiet.
        A good time to stand with a cup of coffee
        in your hand, and watch the birth of day.

        Instead,
        he stood (or sat) with a gun in his hand,
        and experienced the death of himself.
        When he fell, he landed at the base of The Wall,
        centered, still,
        arms outstretched to the names,
        and The Wall seemed to be outstretched
        toward him, protectively,
        as if receiving him back, among his own.

            There was a smile on his face,
            and I envy him.

                                -shiloh, june 1985
                                    in memory of a vet who made his decision
                                    on 11 november 1982

------- Author's Notes -------

**Please take time to read the story behind the poem (click here)**

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Comments on this poem/writing:

Terrie* (66.81.130.179) -- Sunday, January 14 2007, 03:18 am

Tears roll down , lump rest in my throat....

i am speechless ,this cut straight through my gut,and ripped my heart out, i am left to bow my head in silence and join all others , to hear, to know of both young and mature veterans that died in the same manner away from the wall, but to witness it would be the sadest and loneliest Hell to know...they have my respect..

Becky thank you , for sharin' with us, the
realistically that sometimes to many .death is an action of freedom...a form of emergin' from the pain instilled in a young/mature soul , the price thay pay for our Freedom , upon every deployment i always hope my prayer are heard within every tear shed....
Terrie* (66.81.130.179) -- Sunday, January 14 2007, 03:49 am

......

This really touched me, and it touched me DEEP..
barb (67.58.205.188) -- Sunday, January 14 2007, 09:19 pm

understanding

This is a great way of letting others know the pain some have to go through and to stop the hurt is to stop living. To get some peace is sad that they feel death is the only way. good tribute for this soldier. excellent write
Bipedalguy (4.156.129.112) -- Sunday, January 14 2007, 10:19 pm

It's good that someone understands.

Shiloh, This reads like it was written by a soldier who was there, and so you were. Words are completely inadequate, but THANKS for your sacrifice.
We can say that it must have been horrible. Only those who were there can understand how horrible.
I can't believe how badly some of those returning were treated. It's as if people thought that they went there in persuit of their own interests. They had nothing to gain and everything (on this planet, at least) to loose.
(and loose, and loose they did, and still they loose)
Thanks for expressing how you felt. I wish I could say more, but again, my words just don't do it.
Luke (66.24.112.118) -- Saturday, February 10 2007, 12:51 am

My father

The man I respect the most in my life, is Shiloh. My Dad, he's written so much in his lifetime, mainly about topics in relation to this, though, with that he's given me the gift to write as well. Though i've read alot of what he's written, and at 25, much to young to understand truly what he's been through, though with all of his stories, I tear up every time I read something like this of his. Dad I Love you, and thank you for everything

Your Son,
Luke
Bert (24.110.195.23) -- Monday, November 12 2007, 03:01 am

Shiloh is my friend.

I am trying to type through my tears because I know Shiloh and am getting to know him better as he slowly releases what's inside. Shiloh, thank you for the poem and all it represents.
Dreamer (76.29.211.223) -- Monday, May 31 2010, 04:51 pm

over and over

Over and over this poem always comes to the surface as one of my most favorites. The pain the hurt the memories, and mostly the reality.

To Shiloh and his millions of brothers this is a testament to the pain you go through every day of your life in the name of the freedom we all take so for granted.

It is hard to find the words to really say how it makes me feel. So I will leave it at these..

Thank-you
shiloh (67.251.100.215) -- Monday, May 31 2010, 05:02 pm

today...

i wish you peace, comfort, ease, warmth, smiles, contentment... i wish you good things to replace the worries and the weariness... i wish an end to those things that we honor today, but i know that is a wish that will never be, as utopia is not to be found in this world, in this life.
Melissa Trotter (75.93.62.136) -- Monday, August 8 2011, 04:23 am

I really think you should publish your work

I honestly think it would be a good thing. People would love this...and it would be good for more people to see things from a vets prospective.
 
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