I have said before that I am leery of one who can set life to perfect iambic pentameter in order to tell a story. But after first reading poetry by Vietnam veteran John Musgrave and most recently by Doug Todd, I have slowly changed my thoughts on this. I believe now that life is perhaps in a perfect rhythm I failed to see before. Maybe not like Dean Martin or even Bon Jovi. Maybe not even a beat we can clearly hear or explain but it is poetic all the same. Mr. Todd has found his own rhythm and has managed to put with pen to paper his own life poem. Some of it is very sad; some of it is so beautiful that even the hardest of hearts will allow a smile to cross their lips. Some of the beat of his life is hard to fathom, and yet there is a certain peace one feels by reading it. I found it particularly touching to read the poetry aloud to someone else. I wondered about the heart of a man and soldier who led his men to battle, who cried for them when they could not see, marched and fought with them and to this day remembers them. Instinctively, I feel the need to reach out to shake his hand, to offer him a chair in the shade and cool glass of tea. When I read his poetry, I end up feeling as if I should give something back to him, for all that has been taken without permission - things that belonged to him and to over two million others who served our country during the Vietnam War.
His poetry will surely be healing to many who served during the Vietnam War. He says he is not sure why his works could have that effect on others. I am no psychologist or genius, but this is my own opinion: His poetry speaks personally and humbly of an old soldierís random thoughts, fragmented memories and emotion that has no boundary. They could be the thoughts of any veteran, couldnít they? For surely, thousands of men have marched through the same rice paddies he mentions, carried a wounded brother or prayed to God from the Hell they serve in. Thousands of men have thought about the things Mr. Todd describes and the heartache that accompanies them. Many veterans rarely speak of their time in a war that was perhaps the single most defining moment of their lives. Why? Because they donít know how to share it, to give it honor without burden. They do not have the gift of words to paper that this author has. They are men who may not even tell others about their military service, yet they did serve and have varying degrees of separation from the past. I believe that this poetry will help those who need it, to connect the past to the present, showing them that there no longer needs to be any degree of separation between who they were and who they are. They are not weird, or crazy or wrong. They are just like Mr. Todd, but he has found his way and he has reached out to help others find it too.
I read somewhere that God once said that we are given the bad in order to appreciate the good and those who have suffered much have the depth of character to offer solace to others who also suffer. I now believe that. Mr. Todd has a God-given gift.
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