This powerful new work by Bruce Weigl follows the celebrated poet and Vietnam War Veteran as he explores combat, survival, and PTSD in brief prose vignettes.
In compact, transcendent, and poetic prose, Bruce Weigl chronicles somber observations on the present day alongside painful memories of the war. Reflections on school shootings and the lightning-fast spread of news in the 21st century are set alongside elegies for forgotten soldiers and the lifelong struggle of waiting for the trauma of war to fade.
Haunting and nuanced, Among Elms, in Ambush carries readers through mediations and medications, past the shapes of figures in the dark rice fields of Viet Nam and the milkweed pods in the frost-covered fields of Ohio, toward a hard-won determination to survive.
I’m waiting for the war to end for me. I’m waiting for the sound of rockets and mortars to stop rushing through my sleepless nights, for the crack of ambush to quiet, for the movement through the hazy trees to stop and then be nothing but sun coming up through waves of green and yellow bamboo by the river someone had fought hard to defend a thousand years before. I’m waiting for the dead to stop returning from their places in harm’s way, so I won’t have to care for them. I’m waiting for the war to end for me, the dreams of gunfire out of nowhere, the rounds I feel in my back going in, the faces of the enemy so near I can see the oil on their skin. Someone give me something to take or tell me something to believe or teach me something to help me forget, but we all know the truth about that now. How there is no way back from the knowing something right down to your soul, how there is no remedy for how the brain is twisted into a loop that will never end, until it does.
“Few books transfix me. This book did. Among Elms, in Ambush is a ghostly, mysterious, sometimes angry, mostly loving, and always masterly work of art, poetry mapped by prose, prose elevated by a poet's ear for the music of articulation. Bruce Weigl's accomplishment, if it can be described at all, struck me with the force of a prolonged and vivid dream, one moment terrifying, the next moment celebrative or indignant or regretful. The book is infused with history—Weigl’s own, America's own—yet there is nothing merely topical in these pages, unless Dante's dizzying, breathtaking Inferno can be read as topical.”
—Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried
“Weigl is always in at least two worlds at once—present and past; here and beyond. He poses questions of motion and emotion without easy Western answers. In fact, there’s nothing in this map of naked truths that’s easy. And, at times, this speaker of lyric reckoning holds himself accountable for the moments he said ‘I dare you.’”
—Yusef Komunyakaa, author of Neon Vernacular
“Few poets of any generation have written so searingly of the trauma of war, inscribing its wound while refusing the fragile suture of redemption. In this and in the breadth of his accomplishment, Bruce Weigl is one of the most important poets of our time.”
—Carolyn Forché, author of What You Have Heard is True
“Weigl always finds the lyric pulse, a flame of our moment.”
—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic