Three Poems by Pris Campbell

Dancing with the Demons

Don’t touch my back,
he would warn us,
Army green at our Navy blue
Pearl Harbor parties thrown
during that five month
reprieve from Vietnam.

I gave a man a black eye,
when he came up behind…’
his words falling between Joplin’s Cry,
and the Stone’s ‘can’t get no’.

Handsome in a worn-down Bogey sort of way,
he never smiled
never joined with our arm flailing
foot stomping, sweat pouring
flight from the tomorrows
bound to arrive.

I often wondered why he came,
made that long transit down from the hills
to watch and speak of his back.

In my maturity, it became clear.
He knew we danced with the demons, too.


Death’s perfume, he called it–
that cocktail of rotting flesh
mixed with the crisp burn of campfires
in the villages scattered throughout
the jungles brought to their knees by Napalm.

He drifted for more years than the war,
high on that forgetting weed,
bartering his soul to the demons.

My husband’s youngest brother,
when stoned, tells me his stories.

She still comes at night, he whispers,
this war bitch bearing belts strung with ears.

How nice this will look on you

Holds out grimacing skulls
skewered on barbecue spits
hewn of dying Vietnamese trees.

Lamp posts for your yard

Offers snapshots of lost buddies
before that march from
sniper fire to Washington Wall.

You can see them again

His sweat consorts with hers
breath stinking as she begs,
come with me
until, bedroom light still aglow,
cigarettes butts mounded,
dawn gives reprieve.


When I feel lonely
I imagine him
on the other side
of a thick wall.

I can’t see him,
can’t hear him,
but I know he’s there.

I’ve been a year now
by that wall.

Letters arrive in batches
every two or three weeks.
He imagines holding me,
making babies,
me as his perfect wife.

He writes about shipmates,
trips to the Philippines
for fuel and repairs,
storms they push through at sea.

He rarely mentions Vietnam,
the far larger storm there.

6 Responses to “Three Poems by Pris Campbell”

  1. Each poem here speaks.

    Within Seduction, these lines gave me pause:

    She still comes at night, he whispers,
    this war bitch bearing belts strung with ears.

    Such a stunning image. I sat with it for a dozen extra beats, and then returned to it.

    What can I say about Storm? A great poem, whose every lines carves a place in memory. Of the three, this one touched me deepest. Probably, because it is from the point a view of one whose was not there, but experienced its after effects, which still sends out constant tremors.

  2. Duane, thank you so much for your comments. It’s nice to know how and where poems impact a reader , as I’m sure you know. Thanks, also, for your friendship on FB.

  3. Geoff Sanderson Says:

    Very powerful poems, Pris; you know how much I admire your work, but these are extra-special.

  4. Patricia Ricci Says:

    Thanks once again, Pris, for sharing your masterful poetry with us.

  5. Geoff and Pat, thank you so much!

  6. ‘storm’ it is. really got to my innards. thanks, winnie

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