Doug Anderson served in the Vietnam War when he was just 22 years old. He had two years of college under his belt and was on the verge of flunking out when he made the decision to join a Marine Corps Reserve Unit.
Anderson didn’t come to Springfield College to share about his experiences in the form of a lecture. He stood up at the podium in Marsh Memorial Chapel on Oct. 27 and began to read just a few of his many poems.
These poems told of the tragedies, horrors and friendships he experienced during his time in Vietnam. One of the first poems he read was called “Bamboo Bridge.”
He recalled stopping on the bridge and seeing a girl bathing. The soldiers were silent, just watching her wade in the water. For a second he said they all were thinking the same thought, “there is life in life and war is [expletive].”
A bell sounds; the girl sees them and sinks into the water, “eyes full of hate.” The trance he remembers was broken.
Anderson paused after the poem and asked the audience how everyone was doing. He looked out on the audience with a very serious facial expression and everyone nodded as if to tell him to keep reading.
And that he did. Each poem pulled the audience further and further into his memories. His poems were so vivid it made everyone feel as if they were in Vietnam with him.
“Blues” was the name of another poem he read. It was a very personal poem that talked of love in an almost hopeless way.
He takes a deep breath and draws the audience in with the very first sentence, “Love won’t behave.”
The poem goes on to describe his heart as a “house for sale in a lot full of high weeds.”
The audience is intently listening with faces full of kindness.
“I carry my pain around everywhere I go because I’m afraid I might put it down somewhere and lose it,” Anderson said.
There were many moving lines to this poem, yet he read it with no facial expression at all.
Anderson went on to read two excerpts from his memoir. One was a more in-depth account of a story he told in an earlier poem. His words were so descriptive and his memories so clear they baffled the audience.
One of the last things he said was that he didn’t think he was someone that needed to heal from his experiences.
“I don’t consider myself a victim,” Anderson said. “I face my experiences and let them in.”
Taylor Hassa may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org