Archeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems

( 1 )


With Song of Napalm, Bruce Weigl established himself as a poet of power and lyric fury, whose work stands as an elegy to the countless lives dramatically altered by war. Collected here for the first time are selections from eight volumes of poetry spanning two decades, as well as Weigl's most recent work. Out of the horror of individual experience, Bruce Weigl has fashioned poetry that offers solace to disillusionment and bears transcendent resonance for us all.
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Archeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems

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With Song of Napalm, Bruce Weigl established himself as a poet of power and lyric fury, whose work stands as an elegy to the countless lives dramatically altered by war. Collected here for the first time are selections from eight volumes of poetry spanning two decades, as well as Weigl's most recent work. Out of the horror of individual experience, Bruce Weigl has fashioned poetry that offers solace to disillusionment and bears transcendent resonance for us all.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The first five volumes covered in Weigels Archeology (1976s Executioner to 1988s Song of Napalm) dwell on Weigls firsthand experiences of Americas southeast Asian war, returning obsessively to combat terror, witnessed atrocities and cravings for underaged prostitutes. However laudable his brutal honesty, lines like I was barely in country soon become tiresome. Weigls best poems come from his three 1990s volumes (particularly from After the Others, represented in Archeology with selections marked as New Poems) where he begins to distill his themes of disgust and horror within non-Vietnam contexts. Weigls most grimly powerful poems, all found in Archeology, are The Impossible, an account of being forced, as a seven-year-old boy, to perform oral sex on a strange man, and The Nothing Redemption, a disgusting vision of a young man whose hole/ was plastered closed with his own excrement in an attempt to disqualify himself from military service. Snowy Egret (from 1985) and Carp (a more pressurized rhyme sonnet from 1996s Sweet Lorain) are convincing documents of regret for mindless boyhood destruction of animal life. The complex and unsettling Pineapple (appearing in both volumes) is a recollection of a womans seductive behavior in a supermarket fruit aisle; tinged with lust and violence, it somehow reaches its dark climax in the narrators refusal to respond to the womans advances. That poem and other notables in After the Others (such as the squalid The Singing and the Dancing and the desperate Anniversary of Myself) make that book the most consistently rewarding effort from this still evolving poet. (May)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802136077
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 222
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


There's a man standing
in a coop,
his face is wet,
he says he's too old:
"You can't give them away
they just come back."
I follow him to the cellar.
Latin blessings on the wall,
sauerkraut in barrels,
he puts his arm around my waist
begins to make a noise,
pigeons bleeding.
We're both crying now
he moves his tongue around
pulls feathers from his coat.
A fantail he says,
the kind that hop around,
don't fly well.



In Vietnam I was always afraid of mines:
North Vietnamese mines, Vietcong mines,
American mines,
whole fields marked with warning signs.

A bouncing betty comes up waist high—
cuts you in half.
One man's legs were laid
alongside him in the Dustoff:
he asked for a chairback, morphine.
He screamed he wanted to give
his eyes away, his kidneys,
his heart ...





I am you are he she it is
they are you are we are.
I am you are he she it is
they are you are we are.
When they ask for your number
pretend to be breathing.
Forget the stinking jungle,
force your fingers between the lines.
Learn to get out of the dew.
The snakes are thirsty.
Bladders, water, boil it, drink it.
Get out of yourclothes:
You can't move in your green clothes.
Your O.D. in color issue clothes.
Get out the damp between your legs.
Get out the plates and those who ate.
Those who spent the night.
Those small Vietnamese soldiers.
They love to hold your hand.
A fine man is good to hard.

Back away from their dark cheeks.
Small Vietnamese soldiers.
They love to love you.
I have no idea how it happened,
I remember nothing but light.


I don't remember the hard
swallow of the lover.
I don't remember the burial
of ears.
I don't remember the time
of the explosion.
This is the place curses are
manufactured: delivered like
white tablets.
The survivor is spilling his bed pan.
He slips one in your pocket,
you're finally satisfied.
I don't remember the heat
in the hands,
the heat around the neck.
Good times bad times sleep
get up work. Sleep get up
good times bad times.
Work eat sleep good bad work times.

I like a certain cartoon of wounds.
The water which refuses to dry.
I like a little unaccustomed mercy.
Pulling the trigger is all we have.
I hear a child.


I dropped to the bottom of a well.
I have a knife.
I cut someone with it.
Oh, I have the petrified eyebrows
of my Vietnam monkey.
My monkey from Vietnam.
My monkey.
Put your hand here.
It makes no sense.
I beat the monkey with a sword.
I didn't know him.
He was bloody.
He lowered his intestines
to my shoes. My shoes
spit-shined the moment
I learned to tie the bow.
I'm not on speaking terms
with anyone. In the wrong climate
a person can spoil,
the way a pair of boots
slows you down ...

I don't know when I'm sleeping.
I don't know if what I'm saying
is anything at all.
I'll lay on my monkey bones.


I'm tired of the rice falling
in slow motion like eggs from
the smallest animal.
I'm twenty-five years old,
quiet, tired of the same mistakes,
the same greed, the same past.
The same past with its bleat
and pound of the dead,
with its hand grenade tossed
into a hooch on a dull Sunday
because when a man dies like that
his eyes sparkle,
his nose fills with witless nuance
because a farmer in Bong Son
has dead cows lolling
in a field of claymores
because the vc tie hooks
to their comrades
because a spot of blood
is a number
because a woman
is lifting her dress across
the big pond ...

If we're soldiers we should smoke them
if we have them. Someone's bound
to point us in the right direction
sooner or later.

    I'm tired and I'm glad you asked.


There is a hill.
Men run top hill.
Men take hill.
Give hill to man.
Me and my monkey
and me and my monkey
my Vietnamese monkey
my little brown monkey
came with me
to Guam and Hawaii
in Ohio he saw
my people he
jumped on my daddy
he slipped into mother
he baptized my sister
he's my little brown monkey
he came here from heaven
to give me his spirit imagine
my monkey my beautiful
monkey he saved me lifted

me above the punji
sticks above the mines
above the ground burning
above the dead above
the living above the
wounded dying the wounded
dying above my own body
until I am me.

Men take hill away from smaller men.
Men take hill and give to fatter man.
Men take hill. Hill has number.
Men run up hill. Run down hill.
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Table of Contents

Pigeons 3
Mines 4
Monkey 6
Short 16
Anna Grasa 17
Sailing to Bien Hoa 21
The Deer Hunter 22
Convoy 23
Him, on the Bicycle 24
A Romance 29
On This Spot 31
Cardinal 32
The Man Who Made Me Love Him 33
The Life Before Fear 35
Dogs 36
I Have Had My Time Rising and Singing 38
Painting on a T'ang Dynasty Water Vessel 40
The Harp 42
Amnesia 45
Girl at the Chu Lai Laundry 46
Burning Shit at An Khe 47
1955 50
Song for the Lost Private 52
Killing Chickens 54
The Last Lie 57
Temple Near Quang Tri, Not on the Map 58
Surrounding Blues on the Way Down 60
Elegy for A. 62
Noise 64
Regret for the Mourning Doves Who Failed to Mate 66
Mercy 67
Small Song for Andrew 69
The Streets 70
Snowy Egret 71
Song of Napalm 73
Introduction 79
The Way of Tet 81
Some Thoughts on the Ambassador: Bong Son, 1967 83
LZ Nowhere 84
Breakdown 85
On the Anniversary of Her Grace 86
Apparition of the Exile 88
The Soldier's Brief Epistle 89
Dialectical Materialism 90
The Kiss 92
Elegy 94
Her Life Runs Like a Red Silk Flag 97
Why Nothing Changes for Miss Ngo Thi Thanh 99
The Loop 101
What Saves Us 102
In the House of Immigrants 104
Temptation 106
Shelter 108
They Name Heaven 110
On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat 112
The Sky in Daduza Township 113
The Hand That Takes 115
This Man 120
In the Autumn Village 121
May 123
The Confusion of Planes We Must Wander in Sleep 125
The Biography of Fatty's Bar and Grille 126
The Years Without Understanding 128
The Black Hose 130
Blues at the Equinox 133
The Impossible 134
The Forms of Eleventh Avenue 136
Sitting with the Buddhist Monks, Hue, 1967 141
The One 143
What I Saw and Did in the Alley 146
Care 148
At the Confluence of Memory and Desire in Lorain, Ohio 151
Three Meditations at Nguyen Du 152
That Finished Feeling 155
Hymn of My Republic 157
Our 17th Street Years 159
Carp 160
Conversation of Our Blood 161
Three Fish 164
Our Middle Years 166
Elegy for Peter 167
My Early Training 169
Meditation at Melville Ave 171
Meditation at Hue 173
On the Ambiguity of Injury and Pain 174
Red Squirrel 175
Words Like Cold Whiskey Between Us and Pain 176
Bear Meadow 178
Fever Dream in Hanoi 180
After the Others 187
The Happy Land 189
Praise Wound Dirt Skin Sky 190
The Inexplicable Abandonment of Habit in Eclipse 191
Elegy for Her Whose Name You Don't Know 192
River Journal 193
Anniversary of Myself 194
Why I'm Not Afraid 196
And We Came Home 199
The Choosing of Mozart's Fantasie Over Suicide 201
Pineapple 202
The Nothing Redemption 204
The Singing and the Dancing 206
Our Independence Day 208
The Future 210
The Happiness of Others 212
Our Lies and Their Beauty 213
Notes 217
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Bruce Weigl, who grew up in Lorain County, Ohio, provides a grap

    Bruce Weigl, who grew up in Lorain County, Ohio, provides a graphic testament to the horrors of war. It is difficult enough to capture the nightmarish images of Vietnam on a few pages, much less compress them into verse. Every word must be chosen with care. It can be as searing as a blast of napalm or as deadly as a trip wire held in an old man’s teeth.
    This book of poetry captures the Vietnam era in great detail, but it also hints at the triumph of the returning soldier. Blending back into normal life was difficult for these returning GIs. For some, the struggle proved insurmountable. For others, the task took decades. Within these pages, we catch a glimpse of a man caught in this time of conflict and change. Sobering and memorable read.

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